Neb. governor stresses opposition to Medicaid deal

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) on Wednesday stressed his state "didn't want a special deal" out of Senate Democrats' healthcare reform bill.

While Democratic leaders included in their legislation a provision that exempts Nebraska from paying for future Medicaid patients, in part to court Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) much-needed cloture vote, Heineman told Fox News this morning that both he and his state's residents "are opposed to this special deal."

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"The fact of the matter is, all we want is to be treated fairly and equally," the Republican governor said. "And, you know, when you take a look at this health care bill it simply isn't good for America. It's higher taxes, skyrocketing premiums."

"And why did they have to cut so many special deals in order to get 60 votes? That tells you right there that on the merits this bill shouldn't be passed," Heineman added, noting he hoped -- but believed it was rather unlikely -- that Nelson would eventually change his mind.

Interestingly enough, it was Heineman who first stressed to Nelson a series of problems with Democrats' proposed Medicaid rules. The governor feared the entitlement's proposed eligibility expansion would jeopardize the state's already shaky budget, and he asked Nelson in a December letter to oppose the healthcare bill on those fiscal grounds.

The resulting Medicaid deal ultimately won Nelson's vote, but it has hardly satisfied Heineman, who signaled his disapproval of the deal in a second letter to Nelson last month.

The Republican governor has since asked Democrats to remove the provision, and he said Wednesday he supports Republican attorneys general who are questioning the constitutionality of both that deal and the entire healthcare bill.

"I don't have any problem with this lawsuit, and let's see whether it's constitutional or not. But I do hope they change it well before then," the governor said of the probe, led by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster.