White House Seems to Have New Policy On “Special Deals” in Health Care Reform Bill

By Jonathan Blakely

Mar 15, 2010 8:31am

President Obama has decried deals such as the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” wherein the federal government would foot the bill for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion, inserted to secure the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

So on This Week Sunday morning, I asked senior White House adviser David Axelrod if he would be willing to pledge that the final health care reform bill will not include any special deals inserted to secure the support of individual members of Congress.

He wasn’t willing to be so definitive.

“The president does believe that state-only carve-outs should not be in the bill,” Axelrod said.

But, he added, “the principle that we want to apply is that are these applicable to all states?  Even if they do not qualify now, would they qualify under certain sets of circumstances?” He said “that is different than a special state-specific thing.  In the case of Nebraska, what everyone was outraged about was that it seemed to be a special deal just for one state.  That is not going to be in this bill.”

Under the previously passed Senate bill, one provision would give $100 million to the state of Connecticut to build a hospital. Victims of asbestos-related illnesses in the home state of Finance Committee Chair Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, Libby, Mont., secured aid. Massachusetts and Vermont secured extra Medicaid funding. Seniors in Florida and New York would be able to keep Medicare Advantage benefits being cut for seniors everywhere else .

Axelrod defended the deal secured for Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., saying “what has been portrayed as a provision relating to Louisiana says that if a state, if every county in a state is declared a disaster area, they get some extra Medicaid funds.”
Last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said of special deals: “Massachusetts and Vermont I'm told are not in there.  The Medicare Advantage stuff for New York and Florida is not in there.  There’s a provision I think that benefited Michigan that is not in there, and I think as the story said today, and as I've said earlier, there are additional things like maybe Montana and Connecticut that we've asked the Senate to take out.”

It’s unclear whether that still stands. Senators have pushed back against the president’s request that the deals be removed and Axelrod’s statement seemed to reflect a new policy pertaining to the deals.

-jpt

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