Nelson Wants To Open Nebraska's Medicaid Deal To All States

Omaha World-Herald: "Sen. Ben Nelson said today that he's fighting hard to extend to all states the same Medicaid deal that Nebraska gets under the Senate health care bill. ... While other states have to start footing the bill for expanding of Medicaid in 2017, the bill would have the federal government covering Nebraska's share forever." This special Nebraska provision was added to the bill "as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., worked to convince Nelson to deliver the crucial 60th vote to move the legislation forward." The expansion would make people with incomes of up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid in the Senate version of the bill. "Nelson said that simply removing the Nebraska exemption would not affect his support for the final bill" (Morton, 1/7).

Politico's Live Pulse: Nelson "has begun negotiations with Senate Democratic leaders to expand his special Medicaid funding deal to all states or to allow states to opt-out of the Medicaid expansion in 2017." Nelson's spokesman told Politico that other states weren't included in the deal when Nebraska was — though Nelson had always intended for them to be included as well — because leaders did not have a cost estimate on the arrangement from the Congressional Budget Office. "The Nebraska deal was 'a way to put it in the Senate bill and discuss it in conference,' Nelson said." But Senate Democrats such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have criticized the deal and urged that it be removed from the final version of health reform legislation (Budoff Brown, 1/7).

The Associated Press: "Nebraska wasn't alone in getting Medicaid breaks. Vermont, Louisiana and Massachusetts also got help with their programs. Nelson said Thursday that if he can't secure a similar deal for every state, he wants states to be freed from paying the cost of Medicaid expansion. That would mean eliminating the provision or finding another way to pay for it." Nelson also said he expects all states will get extra Medicaid funding (Ross, 1/7).

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