Ben Nelson: Expand Nebraska deal, or let states opt out

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) urged colleagues to either expand a deal he struck for Nebraska to all 50 states, or allow states to opt out of increased payments to Medicaid mandated under health reform legislation.

Nelson argued states should be treated the same under the healthcare bill in a statement on Thursday, as criticism mounted in both parties of the $100 million he secured for Nebraska in a healthcare compromise.

“I’ve been in serious discussions with Senate leaders and others to secure changes in the bill to treat all states equally,” Nelson said in a statement. “At the end of the day, whatever Nebraska gets will apply to all states.”

“My intent has been and remains absolutely clear,” he added. “Every state should be, and will be, treated the same.”

At issue is the provision Nelson managed before announcing he'd vote for the Senate's healthcare bill, which Republicans have derided as the "Cornhusker Kickback." The provision pays off Nebraska's new obligations to Medicaid under the health legislation, while some other states would have to pay out of pocket. Massachusetts and Vermont received $1.1 billion (combined) in similar assistance.

While Republicans have loudly criticized the provision, some Democrats have gotten in the game in recent days, with both Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) castigating the measure.

“My view is: either fund it or un-mandate it," Nelson said.