KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Nelson Asks Reid To Cancel Nebraska Medicaid Deal

Roll Call: "Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on Friday asked that a deal he secured for his state on Medicaid funding be removed from the health care reform bill, a move that follows weeks of unrelenting political blowback." The letter asks that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., replace their deal for the federal government to pay Nebraska's new Medicaid bills with a provision that would extend that deal to every state. "However, his letter appears to make clear that regardless of whether that request is granted, he wants the provision affecting Nebraska removed, Roll call reports" (Drucker, 1/15).

Politico quotes part of the letter:  "I believe I have been clear that my intentions during all stages of negotiations were not that the State of Nebraska be given a special deal, but rather that all states be given the same tools to address an unfunded federal mandate," Nelson wrote in a letter [sent] Friday to Reid. "To remove any attempts at continued distortion or miscommunication on this point, however, I ask that the Nebraska Medicaid exemption be removed and that all states receive equal treatment under the Medicaid expansion."

Such an expansion could cost as much as $30 billion, Politico reports. Nelson's spokesman Jake Thompson wouldn't say whether Nelson's vote would depend on the full funding. "'All I can say is he is fairly confident in his negotiations with Senate leaders and others that they will agree to treat all states the same,' Thompson said Friday."

One example of the backlash Nelson suffered over the deal took place at Dante Pizzeria Napoletana in Omaha, Neb., the Omaha World-Herald reports. "The confrontation has made headlines in political blogs, and Politico reported that a woman yelled, 'Get him the hell out of here!' and other customers started booing." The World-Herald says the scene may have been less rowdy than initially reported, but accounts vary (Morton, 1/15).

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