'Kickback' should have been explained earlier

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

While generally following the Senate's version of health care reform, the White House has confirmed Sen. Ben Nelson's version of the "Cornhusker Kickback" fiasco.

It's unfortunate when a controversy lends itself to alliteration, rolling easily off the tongue regardless of its truth.

Nelson announced this week that he is pleased President Obama, in his reform plan released Monday, addressed Nelson's concerns about the Medicaid costs to all states.

"The president's plan essentially extends the Nebraska provision to all states by 'providing significant additional federal financing to all states for the expansion of Medicaid,'" according to Nelson's office. "This will greatly reduce the unfunded mandate on state budgets.

As Linda Douglass, director of communications for the White House Office of Health Reform, said Tuesday on CSPAN, the so-called "kickback" "was an agreement made with Sen. Nelson of Nebraska to try to protect his state from additional costs of expanding Medicaid -- that is the government program for covering low income people and what Sen. Nelson was really trying to do was make sure that all states were protected from additional burdens as they try to cover low income people through the expansion of Medicaid in their states. That's really what he wanted," she said.

"That is, in fact, what we would run within the new proposal from the President," Douglass added. "You know, Nebraska will not be alone -- all states will now have tremendous relief from any additional burdens in expanding Medicaid to cover the low income people in their states."

According to Nelson's office, in mid-December 2009, the senator raised concerns about an unfunded federal mandate in the Senate bill and sought an opt-in for all states to accept, or not, their share of the Medicaid costs that would begin in 2017. The Congressional Budget Office was unable to provide a score, or cost analysis, so Senate leaders put the Nebraska provision into the bill.

"It was not a dealmaker or deal breaker for Nelson," his office explained. "The two issues that were deal breakers: he opposed a government-run public option and public funding of abortion on health reform.

"The Nebraska provision was a placeholder to fix the problem for all states in a final House-senate bill. Since he agreed to support the Senate health reform plan, Nelson has sought any of these outcomes: (1) opt-out for all states; (2) substantial additional federal funding for all states; (3) elimination of the unfunded mandate for all states."

Health care reform in any form is far from a certainty, but it seems true that the senator was looking out for the best interests of all the sates, and not just Nebraska.

But it's clear that the idea of a "Cornhusker Kickback" sticks in the craw of quite a few of us, Nebraskans included, especially those who might not be cognizant of the give-and-take that makes Washington work.

The senator's "placeholder" explanation would have spared Nelson and the rest of the state at least some of the embarrassment had it been made clear from the start.

View 10 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Gee wonder where they got the info to this story from?????? Sounds like someone is still trying to cover their butt! Seems like Sen Nelson's office is sending out daily talking points.

    -- Posted by remington81 on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 12:42 PM
  • OK, now we have a mandate with 'Federal' funding. I wonder where the Federal will derive the 'funding?' Perchance the Tax-paying citizens of some other country??

    More and more this sounds like 'Ho-Bo Stew' (Throw everything in, and stir. Cooked and stirred long enough, hunger will overwhelm the taste).

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 7:14 PM
  • So ben did this to avoid reconciliation correct? Now does that mean he is going to oppose the current plan to get this through using reconciliation?

    Ben is trying to spin like the tasmanian Devil to cover his butt. Every week it's a new column saying hey look at all the goodies I got for Nebraska. What he neglects to say is all those goodies are financed by debt and is going to bankrupt the country.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 9:27 AM
  • The Health care issue is still very simple.. The government takes care of the Elderly and Poor.. The insurance companies pick from the rest and take profit. The government pool is growing (e.g. baby boomers, and more poor).. While the private insurance market is shrinking (businesses/people dropping coverage, reducing benefits).. This shrinking market has caused the private insurance companies to raise rates.. Imagine that, a shrinking business model is able to raise rates.. Meanwhile the government has a growing pool.. without being able to raise rates..

    -- Posted by mickhaney on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 5:59 PM
  • And mickhaney, where exactly does the government get its money to pay for these programs? Does the word TAXPAYER ring a bell? We see our premiums go up at the same time our tax liability goes up. We have reached our breaking point, and nelson sees it.

    -- Posted by Dudley Dawson on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 10:01 PM
  • I had thought to unload here, and decided against it. If the folks in this state and around the nation weren't smart enough to see what Sen. Nelson was trying to do, spoon feeding them and speaking slowly won't help.

    Simply put, he wanted the bipartisan finished product for everyone to see and voice an opinion on. He never said he would vote with the Head Liar on the hill. You may recall, Nelson crosses the aisle when needed.

    Bush's Folly left all tax payers with higher taxes and a lot of people who have earned unlimited care thru their service to the nation, and the "life altering" consequences of their patriotism. They suffer PTSD, TBI, and the loss of arms and legs. I suppose you whiners are against them getting the help they've earned.

    Some 7000 of the homeless vets are women (estimate) and no one knows how many men for sure.

    I just hope these vets don't have to wait 40 years to get what they were promised like some of us who were "vets before it became popular" did.

    -- Posted by old grouch on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 7:06 AM
  • Old grouch I have yet to hear anyone advocate abandoning our vets. But the VA is not run well and is a great example of where gubment healtcare would lead us.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 9:49 AM
  • If we do not stand up we could fall down, not so hard to understand.vietnam vet.

    -- Posted by lonewolf13 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 7:40 PM
  • Im called Bens office and asked if he would support reconciliation since he took the kickback to stop that approach. I was told the usual BS talking points and whe I cut her off and asked if he would support it or not. I was told that if it came to that he would. I then asked why Ben thought he could have it both ways. IS he opposed to the reconciliation or is he for it?

    If ben cared about unfunded mandates why does he keep voting for bills that contain them?

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 9:03 PM
  • It sure is amasing where the stories come from remington81. I agree with you.

    I wonder why we read different stories in different newspapers.

    Sure too bad they don't publish both sides, then, maybe we might be able too figure some of it out!!!!!!

    -- Posted by Just a reader on Sat, Mar 6, 2010, at 9:19 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: