KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Threaten Lawsuit Over Nebraska’s Medicaid Deal In Senate Health Bill

Several news outlets report on a possible lawsuit against the Medicaid compromise for Nebraska that Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., brokered with Senate leaders.

"South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster is threatening to file a constitutional challenge to Congress's healthcare reform effort unless a special provision favoring Nebraska at the expense of all other states is stripped from the law," The Christian Science Monitor reports. "In a news conference at the National Press Club Wednesday, Attorney General McMaster said he has the support of 14 other attorneys general who agree that the Nebraska amendment raises significant constitutional concerns. Democratic leaders inserted a special measure into the Senate healthcare bill in December that would exempt Nebraska from having to pay its usual share for coverage of new Medicaid participants. Instead, the federal government would pick up Nebraska's share of the cost, estimated at $100 million over 10 years. ..."

McMaster's challenge questions whether "the legislative deal violates congressional power ... the Constitution assigns broad spending authority to Congress, he said, but national spending may not be arbitrary and capricious. McMaster, a Republican, is running for governor of South Carolina" (Richey, 1/13).

McClatchy/Kansas City Star: "Nelson's support was crucial because he was the 60th senator to support the health-care legislation, a threshold that prevented filibusters or other procedural delays by Republican opponents. McMaster, a Republican, denied that his increasingly high-profile opposition to the health-care bill is politically motivated or tied to his gubernatorial bid."

"'This bill is something that would put a financial burden on my state from Nebraska at a time when we can barely keep the lights on in South Carolina,' McMaster told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. But in a gubernatorial fundraising letter e-mailed to South Carolina conservatives Tuesday, McMaster asked for campaign contributions to help him block the health care legislation" (Rosen, 1/13).

Reuters: The group of attorneys general "includes two Democrats, one from Oklahoma and one from American Samoa. … If the provision is removed they will not sue, McMaster said. ..."

"McMaster wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi in December urging them to remove the provision. ... Nelson has said he is fighting to ensure all states receive equal treatment to the Cornhusker State in the final law" (Lambert, 1/13).

National Journal: "In an effort to save the provision, McMaster said Nelson called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who then phoned McMaster, in order to set up a personal call between the 2 men on New Year's Eve. During the phone call, Nelson asked McMaster to drop his threats. Nelson said he hoped every state would get the same kind of deal his state received, McMaster told reporters in DC today. Nelson also assured McMaster that the final version of the bill would look much different from the version that passed the Senate" (Wilson, 1/13).

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