Week ahead: Medicare faces chopping block in supercommittee proposals

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The 12-member panel is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction — though it appears to be aiming for a much bigger agreement — and health programs will likely be a big part of whatever it ultimately proposes. Supercommittee Democrats put $400 billion of healthcare cuts on the table last week, and House Republicans countered with $600 billion in entitlement savings.

Liberals aren’t happy to see Medicare and Medicaid cuts in Democrats’ opening offer. Although precise details of the proposed cuts aren’t clear, both parties’ proposals would directly affect patients. That could undermine the political advantage Democrats feel they gained on Medicare, which was not only a winning issue, but a way to shift the healthcare debate away from Democrats’ increasingly unpopular healthcare reform law.

The law’s public perception certainly wasn’t helped by the high-profile collapse of the CLASS Act, which provided roughly 40 percent of the law’s deficit reduction in official estimates. House Republicans are looking to move forward soon on a repeal bill for the long-term-care program, which the White House and many House Democrats oppose.

The Senate could get moving relatively soon on a plan to roll back another part of the healthcare law. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to bring to the floor this week a bill that would change the way income is calculated under the reform law. The change would address a glitch that makes millions of low-income people eligible for Medicaid.

Off Capitol Hill, the Heritage Foundation is holding a forum Thursday on the constitutional challenges to the healthcare law. Attorneys for the 26 states that have sued over the law, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business, are slated to speak.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ fall meeting begins Wednesday at D.C.'s National Harbor. No big healthcare issues are scheduled for a vote, but NAIC committees will work on a range of issues, including exchanges. A subgroup on insurance agents and brokers will “continue to receive input toward developing a consensus solution” on brokers’ fees and the medical loss ratio.

The American Public Health Association is also meeting in Washington this week.