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Today’s Headlines – February 1, 2012

Can you believe it’s February already? Here are your morning headlines:

The New York Times: Budget Deficit Tops $1 Trillion, But Is Falling, Report Says
Lawmakers of both parties say Congress must block impending cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, who face a 27 percent reduction in fees in March. Just to maintain Medicare payment rates at current levels, without an increase, would cost $372 billion over 10 years, compared with spending expected under current law, the budget office said (Pear, 1/31).

Los Angeles Times: Current Laws Would Slash Federal Deficit, Analysts Say
By the middle of the decade, deficits would begin to curve upward again, largely as a result of an aging population and the related costs of Medicare and Social Security. Resolving that issue is what Elmendorf called the “fundamental challenge.” The GOP has proposed offering the next generation of seniors a fixed-price stipend to buy private health insurance — a proposal from Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that was panned by much of the public and used as a Democratic campaign issue against Republicans who supported it (Mascaro, 1/31).

For more headlines …

The Washington Post: U.S. Deficit To Top $1 Trillion, Smallest Since ‘09
The federal deficit will approach $1.1 trillion this year, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday, down substantially from the worst days of the Great Recession (Montgomery, 1/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Congressional Budget Office Estimates Federal Budget Deficit To Dip Slightly to $1.1T
The report is yet another reminder of the perilous fiscal situation the government is in, but it’s commonly assumed that President Barack Obama and lawmakers in Congress will be able to accomplish little on the deficit issue during an election year. … The recent wave of shocking, trillion-dollar-plus deficits has been largely a product of the recent deep recession and the slower-than-hoped recovery. The jolt to the economy has made a permanent dent in revenue estimates but the budget crunch will get even worse with the retirement of the Baby Boom generation and the resulting strain of Social Security and Medicare (1/31).

The Wall Street Journal: Deficit Is Again Set To Top $1 Trillion
Mr. Elmendorf warned that the primary driver of the deficit later this decade would be the cost of an aging U.S. population, particularly the rising costs of government health-care programs. For example, the CBO projected the government would spend $1.6 trillion on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in 2012, 44% of the federal budget. In 2022, the government will spend $3.0 trillion on those programs, 54% of the federal budget (Paletta, 2/1).

Politico: CLASS Act: Abandoned Yet Defended
The Obama administration has abandoned health reform’s long-term care insurance program, saying it can’t figure out how to make the program solvent and isn’t going to try. And yet, it says it’s not interested in repealing the program for good. So when the House votes on Wednesday to wipe the CLASS Act off the books, the White House — and most Democrats — will be against it (Norman and Haberkorn, 1/31).

USA Today: Comeback Kid: Romney Sweeps To Florida Win Over Gingrich
Romney prevailed by building a coalition that stretched across most demographic groups. He scored particularly well among seniors, the affluent, Catholics, Hispanics and moderates. According to surveys of voters as they left polling places, he did well among those concerned first and foremost about the economy — the electorate’s dominant issue — and among those who cared most about supporting a candidate who could beat Obama (Page, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Santorum Says Messy Romney-Gingrich Fight In Florida Hurt GOP
Santorum plans to spend Wednesday campaigning in Colorado, where he spent part of Tuesday. In the morning, he will deliver what he’s billing as a hard-hitting speech on “Obamacare” and “Romneycare,” the derisive phrases used to describe the healthcare reform packages enacted by President Obama and Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.  Santorum has argued repeatedly that Obama’s healthcare reform is such a grievous impingement on the freedom of the American people that it will be the defining election issue in November (Abcarian, 1/31).

Los Angeles Times: Komen Breast Cancer Charity Severs Ties With Planned Parenthood
In what looks to be a break between two organizations dedicated to women’s health, a national breast cancer awareness group said it would stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood centers for breast cancer examinations and other breast health services (Roan, 2/1).

Los Angeles Times: Monterey County Hospital Group To Award More Large Retirement Packages
A Monterey County hospital district, which came under fire last year for giving its chief executive one of the largest public pensions in California history, announced this week that several other top officials are receiving generous retirement packages (Allen, 2/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Vermont, Where Irene Flooded Key Hospital, Struggles To Rebuild Mental Health System
The remnants of Hurricane Irene did what policymakers hadn’t been able to accomplish for more than a decade — close the state’s antiquated psychiatric hospital (1/31).