Obama urges sequestration fix to avert Medicare cuts

President Obama yesterday urged Congress to avoid automatic cuts set to take effect next month, including a 2 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements. Obama announced a short-term budget plan aimed at delaying sequestration, although the president says he is still looking for a long-term solution to cut the national debt in the next 10 years, the Associated Press reported.

The Congressional Budget Office expects the federal deficit to drop to $1 trillion, a temporary five-year low, the Los Angeles Times reported. Although the slowed deficit sounds promising, the newspaper pointed out the political battles between the White House and congressional Republicans have slowed government action to resolve the budget.

Overhauling the Medicare physician payment formula over the next decade would cost only $138 billion, compared to the previously estimated $300 billion, according to yesterday's CBO report. The new CBO estimates could change deals on the sustainable growth rate, CQ Healthbeat reported.

"Congress is already working towards a budget that would permanently replace the sequester," Obama said. "At the very least, we should give them the chance to come up with this budget instead of making indiscriminate cuts now that will cost us jobs and significantly slow down our recovery," The Washington Post reported.

Even though health spending has slowed in recent years, more new Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries mean costs will rise, the Los Angeles Times noted.

The CBO predicts the debt will begin rising rapidly again in the next decade unless there are higher taxes or changes in future borrowing.

Obama said he still supports changes to the tax code and Medicare, but he did not provide specifics, USA Today reported.

However, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the GOP would oppose any effort to replace the cuts with tax increases, the Post reported.

For more information:
- read the Associated Press article
- here's the Los Angeles Times article
- check out the CBO report (.pdf)
- see the CQ Healthbeat article (subscription required)
- read the USA Today article
- read the Washington Post article

Related Articles:
New Congress renews efforts to repeal SGR
MedPAC pushes SGR repeal, but few pay changes
Fiscal cliff law shifts Medicare cuts to hospitals
Congress approves last-minute 'doc fix'
Hospitals cheer, jeer fiscal cliff deal
Fiscal cliff countdown: Medicare payments in real danger