Under fire for inserting a provision into the health care reform bill that provides special benefits to his state, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Thursday that he is pushing to expand the deal to include all 50 states.
In the closing days of the health care reform negotiations, Nelson secured an agreement to have the $871 billion package cover the full cost of Nebraskas share of a proposed Medicaid expansion. The deal has since been derided as the Cornhusker Kickback.
Nelson has spent the holiday recess trying to explain the provision, even launching a statewide television ad buy to push back against the criticism. Nelson is now vowing to ensure that all states receive the same treatment, saying he will push for the change in the final health care package to expand the deal for all states. Democratic leaders are trying to reconcile the House and Senate versions of health care reform with an eye toward getting a measure to President Barack Obama by February.
My view is: either fund it or un-mandate it, Nelson said in a press release Thursday. My intent has been and remains absolutely clear. ... Every state should be, and will be, treated the same.
Medicaid is a program jointly funded by state and the federal government that provides health care to the poor. Expanding eligibility for the program would extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured.
Some states, nervous about their own budget problems, have protested the expansion. In response, Senators who drafted the bill inserted a provision allowing that the federal government subsidize each states portion of the Medicaid expansion through 2017.
But Nelson, a final hold out for the Senate package, secured a provision to pay for Nebraskas expansion portion in perpetuity. Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) obtained $300 million in extra Medicaid funding for her state as a part of the final Senate bill a deal critics tarred the Louisiana Purchase.
Read the full text of Nelsons press release here.