KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Nelson’s Medicaid Deal Comes Under Attack

A special deal reached by Senate Democratic leaders and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., regarding funding for his state in the context of health reform's proposed Medicaid expansion, is drawing increasing criticism.  

The Associated Press: "Two top state prosecutors are asking attorneys general across the country to let Washington know if they oppose the health care reform bill they say includes a political deal for Nebraska." The Attorneys General from South Carolina and Oklahoma urged their colleagues "to call on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to remove the provision." Thirteen Republican attorneys general were joined last week by Oklahoma's Drew Edmondson, the sole Democrat of the group, in threatening to sue if the provision wasn't removed (Kinnard, 1/6).

The Washington Independent reports that Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said on Fox News Wednesday that the state didn't want a special deal, although he was concerned about the budgetary pressure such a Medicaid expansion would have on the state. "Nebraskans are opposed to this special deal. I'm opposed to it. … All states ought to be treated fairly and equally, particularly when you're talking about a federal program like Medicaid," Heineman said (Lillis, 1/6).

Senate Democrats, too, are blasting the deal, Politico's Live Pulse Blog reports. "Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was the latest to criticize the provision that forever exempts Nebraska from picking up its share of the Medicaid expansion." Other Democratic senators, including Sens. Blanche Lincoln, of Ark., and Michael Bennet, of Colorado have also been critical of the deal (Budoff Brown, 1/6).

Politico reports in a separate story that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the health care bill is full of "bribes, deals and loopholes. ... California's congressional delegation should either vote against this bill that is a disaster for California or get in there and fight for the same sweetheart deal Senator Nelson of Nebraska got for the Cornhusker State. He got the corn; we got the husk,'" Schwarzenegger said (Allen, 1/6).

Fox News reports that Nelson himself said this week that the Obama administration should have tackled economic reforms before health care reform. "'I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy,' Nelson told the Fremont Tribune" (1/6).

The Fremont (Neb.) Tribune has more on Nelson's comments: "Nelson said by insisting on certain changes before casting his vote he 'took a bad bill and made it better.' He pointed out aspects of the Senate's bill he said will benefit Nebraska, and called the 'Cornhusker Kickback' a 'sideshow' that's gotten too much attention. Nelson said the two keys to securing his vote to advance the bill were eliminating the so called public option and not allowing federal funds to pay for abortions. He called those provisions 'deal breakers,' and believes he accomplished them" (Zavadil, 1/6).

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