"These negotiations will be on C-Span, and so the public will be part of the conversation and we'll see the choices that are being made."
On Wednesday, March 17, 2010, House Majority Leader said that, "We're going to have a clean up or down vote on the Senate bill-that will be on the rule." According to Majority Leader, any Member who votes for the health care takeover rule will also be voting "straight up" for all of the bill's special deals.
Backroom Deals In the Democrats Health Care Takeover
Cornhusker Kickback: Perhaps the most well known in the Senate bill, the provision, included at the behest of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), ensures that Nebraska would be the only state to have the full amount of its increased Medicaid costs paid for by the federal government.
The Louisiana Purchase: The Senate bill provides extra Medicaid funding for any state in which every county has been declared a disaster area. Because of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is the only state that would qualify for the money. The $300 million provision for Louisiana was slipped in late in the process to persuade Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to support the health care takeover.
Gator Aid: At the request of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl), the Senate bill includes a formula for protecting certain Medicare Advantage enrollees from billions in cuts. The formula would only apply to five states, most notably to Florida in which 800,000 of the state's one million Medicare Advantage users would be exempt from cuts.
New England Handouts: In addition to the $100 million included in federal Medicaid payments for Nebraska, the bill provides two New England states with even more money Medicaid funding. According to CBO, the Senate bill now contains about $600 million in extra Medicaid cash to Vermont, and about $500 million in additional money for Medicaid to Massachusetts, making these three states the only to receive such funding. Despite claims that these cushy extras for a few states would be scaled back, reports indicate that the White House is still making deals so these states can keep the handouts.
The Dodd Clinic: Section 10502(a) of the bill provides $100 million for construction at an unnamed "health care facility" affiliated with an academic health center at a public research university in a state with only one public academic medical and dental school. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) later sent a press release saying that he was securing the money for the University of Connecticut, and then Dodd bragged that, "These provisions will bring millions of dollars to the state so that Connecticut's residents can receive quality, affordable health care."
Medicare Expansion: A provision slipped into the Senate bill by Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT), Section 1881A(b)(2), specifically expands Medicare coverage for individuals who reside "in or around the geographic area subject to an emergency declaration made as of June 17, 2009." The area the bill refers to is an asbestos contaminated area near Libby, Montana, for which Sen. Max Baucus has been trying to secure funding for years.
Tax Exemptions for "Profiteering" Insurers: The Senate bill exempts Michigan Blue Cross and Blue Shield from the new taxes levied on health insurers. In the past weeks, the president attacked Michigan Blue Cross and Blue Shield because they "raised rates by 22 percent after asking to raise them by up to 56 percent." It doesn't seem very transparent to lambast a company publicly while quietly exempting them from a new tax in an effort to garner support.
Billions in Payouts to Insurance Companies: According to CBO, section 1412(c) provides $436 in federal subsidies to insurance companies to provide health care in the exchange. While Democrats talk about the greed of insurance companies, the Senate bill gives those companies nearly half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money.