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Shady Deals and Backroom Bargains in the Senate Takeover of Health Care

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Washington, Mar 18, 2010 | McCall Avery (2022254201) | comments

“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.”
                                                                                                         —President Barack Obama, January 20, 2008

“The Speaker is trying to pass the healthcare bill without letting America see it first.  In fact, she said, ‘We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.’  She’s also shooting for a vote-less passage. That is unconstitutional!  Well, I can tell my Democratic colleagues what’s in it.  The healthcare bill is littered full of one sweetheart deal after another – from the Louisiana Purchase to the Cornhusker

Kickback.  What’s another term for hustling votes?  Buying them! The American people are fed up with secret backroom deals in smoke-filled rooms.” U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson

1) “The Louisiana Purchase”
Who: Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Cost: $300 million
Section 2006 provides a “Special Adjustment” for states recovering from a major disaster.  Though the state is not named specifically, this provision appears to help only Louisiana – providing $300 million to the state Medicaid program.  At the request of Senator Mary Landrieu, this provision was inserted into the Senate bill shortly before it was brought to the floor for a vote. Source: Sweeteners for the South:The Washington Post (November 22, 2009)

2) “The Cornhusker Kickback”
Who: Democrat Senator Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
Cost: $100 million
Section 10201(C)(4) provides that Nebraska, and only the State of Nebraska, would see the federal government pick up the extra Medicaid “tab” created by Obamacare.  The underlying legislation expands Medicaid eligibility. Since Medicaid is a program paid for by both the federal and state governments, the Cornhusker Kickback has the federal government absorbing all the extra costs of this eligibility expansion that other states must still pay.
Source: CBO Pegs Nelson's Deal for Nebraska at $100 million: The Hill (December 20, 2009)

3) “Gator Aid”
Who: Democrat Senator Bill Nelson (Florida)
Cost: ???
The Senate bill cuts billions from the Medicare Advantage program – forcing millions of seniors off of their current health care plan.  However, Senator Bill Nelson negotiated a special deal that protects Florida seniors from these cuts.  Nelson inserted this amendment during the Senate Finance Committee’s markup. Source: White House Cuts Special Help for Nebraska, but Other Deals Remain in Reform Bill: ABC News Blog (February 22, 2010)

4) The Dodd Clinic
Who: Democrat Senator Chris Dodd (Connecticut)
Cost: $100 million
Section 10502 provides $100 million in funding for "a health care facility that provides research, inpatient tertiary care, or outpatient clinical services."  The AP has reported that the funding was inserted at the request of Chris Dodd and will likely go to a University of Connecticut hospital.
Source: Health Bill Money for Hospitals Sought by Dodd: Politico (December 20, 2009)

5) “The Hoffa Handout”
Who: Democrat Senators John Kerry (Massachusetts) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)
Cost: $5 billion
Section 1102 provides $5 billion for a reinsurance program to defray the medical costs of union members—extra cash for union healthcare plans.  This provision was added at the behest of Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry.  Source: States of Personal Privilege: The Wall Street Journal (October 15, 2009)

6) “Favors for Fat Cats”
Who: Democrat Senators Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)
Cost: ???
Section 10905 of the Senate bill levies a new annual fee on health insurers.  However, the bill provides an exemption to a narrow group of companies due to their political importance to a few senators.  This section will exempt Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Source: Concessions Lawmakers Won in the Health Bill: The Boston Globe (December 22, 2009)

7) “The Beantown Buy-off”
Who: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Democrat Senator John Kerry (Massachusetts)
Cost: $1.1 billion
Section 10201 adjusts federal payment to states for their Medicaid program.  This section provides Vermont ($600 million) and Massachusetts ($500 million) extra federal Medicaid funds. 
Source: Democrats Protect Backroom Deals: Politico (February 3, 2010)

8) “Another Joke from Jersey”
Who: Democrat Senator Bob Menendez (New Jersey)
Cost: $1 billion
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) secured a $1 billion research subsidy for drug companies in the Senate health care bill.  According to Menendez’ website, 86 percent of New Jersey’s biotech companies would qualify for the subsidy contained in Section 9023.  Source: States of Personal Privilege: The Wall Street Journal (October 15, 2009)

9) “Coal Miner Carve-out”
Who: Democrat Senator Max Baucus (Montana)
Cost: ??? 
Section 10323 provides Medicare coverage for workers exposed to “environmental health hazards.”  Though not named specifically in the bill, the provision was added by Senator Max Baucus to ensure special health coverage for miners in Libby, Montana.  Source: Deep In Health Bill, Very Specific Beneficiaries: The New York Times (December 20, 2009)

10) “The Fargo Freebie”
Who: Democrat Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan (North Dakota)
Cost: ???
Section 10324 generously provides higher Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in “frontier counties.”  Though not named specifically, providers in North Dakota counties would qualify for higher Medicare payments.
Source: On Health-care Bill, Democratic Senators are in States of Denial: The Washington Post (December 22, 2009)

11) “The Hawaiian Handout”
Who: Democrat Senators Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
Cost: ???
The Senate bill reduces payments to hospitals for treating uninsured patients under the federal Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program.  However, Hawaii’s two Democrat Senators inserted a special deal for their state hospitals.  Section 10201 shields Hawaii facilities from proposed cuts in DSH payments.
Source: On Health-care Bill, Democratic Senators are in States of Denial: The Washington Post (December 22, 2009)

12) “The Oregon Fail”
Who: Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon)
Cost: ???
The Senate health care bill imposes a new tax on employer-sponsored health plans.  Yet Senator Merkley was able to secure a special deal.  Section 10901 of the Senate bill shields longshoremen from the full impact of the new tax.
Source: Concessions Lawmakers Won in the Health Bill: The Boston Globe (December 22, 2009)

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