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Debt Ceiling Discussions Fuel Entitlement Debate

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Debt Ceiling Discussions Fuel Entitlement Debate

June 20, 2011

The future of Medicare and Medicaid will continue to be discussed on Capitol Hill as negotiations on the debt ceiling continue this week. At least three bipartisan meetings helmed by Vice President Joe Biden have been scheduled, and both parties began to make concessions this past week as a possible deal appeared to emerge, but few details.

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee will hold a hearing on how to improve care for the “dual eligibles,” who have some of the highest healthcare costs. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the way forward on healthcare entitlements. Witnesses have yet to be announced.

The possibility that deficit talks will result in just a short-term increase in the debt ceiling is on the table after Senate Minority LeaderMitch McConnell (R-KY) saidSunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, “Everybody knows you have to tackle entitlement reform.... If we can’t do that, then we’ll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over, you know, a few months, and we’ll be back having the same discussion again in the fall.” While something of a threat, McConnell’s statement was the clearest acknowledgement yet by a key lawmaker that one or more short-term increasesmay occur.