CBO pegs Nelson's Nebraska Medicaid deal cost at $100 million

Nebraska will receive $100 million in assistance for its state Medicaid program under provisions negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in the Senate's healthcare reform bill.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) informed lawmakers on Sunday night that the section of the manager's amendment to the Senate's health bill would cost $1.2 billion over 10 years.

Nelson managed to win a share of the section of the manager's amendment on Equitable Support for Certain States, which will provide Nebraska, along with Massachusetts and Vermont, support in paying its share of additional costs to Medicaid in the health legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT
The provision, which Republicans have derided as the "Cornhusker Kickback," actually provides Nebraska the least of the three states. Vermont will receive $600 million over 10 years, while Massachusetts will receive $500 million. The money to Nebraska had previously been reported to be $45 million.

Nelson defended the provision during an appearance on CNN on Sunday, saying he was simply seeking to work with Nebraska's governor and fellow senators to secure fair treatment.

"Well, you know, look, I didn't ask for a special favor here. I didn't ask for a carve-out," Nelson said. "What I said is the governor of Nebraska has contacted me, he said publicly he's having trouble with the budget. This will add to his budget woes. And I said, look, we have to have that fixed."

Nebraska's governor, Dave Heineman, a Republican, rejected that characterization.

"Nebraskans did not ask for a special deal, only a fair deal. Under no circumstances did I have anything to do with Sen. Nelson’s compromise," he said. "Sen. Nelson negotiated this special deal, rather than a fair deal for both Nebraska and America. The responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Sen. Ben Nelson.”

Democratic lawmakers defended the deal with Nelson, as well as one in November with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) before debate began on the health bill, as simply examples of senators fighting for their states.