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'Kickback' should have been explained earlier
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.