By James Dohnert

It went down to the wire, but Congress was able to avoid a partial government shutdown last week. After months of political negotiations, a national budget for 2011 was agreed upon on April 8.

The budget will cut more than $38 billion in government spending this year, but it is just the beginning of a larger budget discussion. "I do believe that we will have, what we'll call a bridge continuing resolution passed tonight to ensure the government's open," announced House Speaker John Boehner with just an hour to go before a government shutdown.

The passing of the budget was just a start as the long-term debt of 2012 continues to loom. It is, as the House Speaker put it, “ a bridge” for continued budget discussions. The major question for the budget now is where the cuts are going to come from. Republicans are calling for an overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid to reduce spending, while Democrats are hoping for an increase in taxes on the wealthy and strategic cuts to reduce the budget.

So no matter how the budget plays out, more cuts are to be expected. With that in mind, take a look at one of America's most hotly debated governmental programs –- national health care -- and join the Commonwealth Club for upcoming discussions on the topic.

Lessons from England: Holding Health-Care Providers Responsible for Quality and Costs

Chris Ham, professor of health policy and management at the University of Birmingham, will discuss the lessons U.S. politians could learn from England’s health care system. Ham will focus on “accountable care organizations” and how they can improve coverage and manage costs. Join Professor Ham on April the 12th. 

Walter M. Bortz: Wealth Before Health – Is American Health Care Threatening the Stability of the Nation?

Dr. Walter M. Bortz will discuss his plan for a better U.S. health-care system. He argues that profit has becomes more important than human well-being, and he suggests a system that puts patients first. Hear the Doctor speak on May 31st. 

And don't miss: Also, be sure to check out what former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry had to say on the topic of the national budget at a recent Commonwealth Club event