Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is This Really Compromise?

Senate Bill Still Cuts Hundreds of Billions from Medicare, Leaves West Virginians to Pay for Sweetheart Deals to Other States

CHARLESTON - As the United States Senate works frantically to meet its arbitrary Christmas deadline on "health care reform,” it appears that Majority Leader Reid has resorted to backroom deal-making in order to gather the necessary 60 votes on legislation that remains unpopular with the American people.

Media reports suggest that Vermont, Nebraska and Massachusetts may get exemptions that subsidize the expansion of Medicaid, while Florida, Pennsylvania and New York will be exempted from major cuts to Medicare Advantage. As most states (including West Virginia) shell out millions in tax dollars to fund new Medicaid recipients and seniors across the country see their Medicare Advantage benefits dry up, these exempted states will be shielded from the impacts of the Senate bill.

"These exemptions strike me as blatant admission by Democratic leadership that major components of this bill are a bad deal for states and a bad deal for seniors," said Capito. "What should have been an open process of give and take appears to have degenerated into a series of sweetheart deals for some states that leave the rest of us to pick up the tab."

Earlier this year, Capito wrote to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources regarding the budgetary impact of expanding Medicaid. In a letter to the secretary, Capito noted that - after a short-term grace period - states would have to pick up a significantly larger share of the Medicaid burden, which could mean new taxes or more budget cuts.

She has also raised concerns about severe cuts to Medicare which threatens to alter coverage for thousands of West Virginia seniors.

"On top of $56 billion in cuts to home health care and $143 billion in across the board cuts to Medicare providers, by gutting Medicare Advantage the Speaker's bill blatantly breaks the President's promise that if you like your current plan you can keep it," Capito said in November after the House passed their version of the health care bill.


The Price of “Reform”
Some States Get Special Treatment Under Democrats’ Bill – But Not West Virginia

Politico: Reid Holds Caucus Together One Vote at a Time: “Reid was able to hold his caucus together, in part, by writing state-specific provisions that won over senators, one vote at a time. Nebraska, Vermont and Massachusetts scored $1.2 billion in special Medicaid assistance. Nelson got something for Nebraska the other states didn’t — a permanent exemption from increased state costs for new patients that come into Medicaid through the plan. Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming secured higher federal reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals that serve Medicare patients. Senior citizens in Florida, Pennsylvania and New York will see their Medicare Advantage benefits protected at a time when the program will be trimmed nationwide.” (Politico, December 21, 2009)

Wall Street Journal: Change Nobody Believes In: “…Others got hush money, namely Nebraska's Ben Nelson. Even liberal Governors have been howling for months about ObamaCare's unfunded spending mandates: Other budget priorities like education will be crowded out when about 21% of the U.S. population is on Medicaid, the joint state-federal program intended for the poor. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman calculates that ObamaCare will result in $2.5 billion in new costs for his state that "will be passed on to citizens through direct or indirect taxes and fees," as he put it in a letter to his state's junior Senator. So in addition to abortion restrictions, Mr. Nelson won the concession that Congress will pay for 100% of Nebraska Medicaid expansions into perpetuity. His capitulation ought to cost him his political career, but more to the point, what about the other states that don't have a Senator who's the 60th vote for ObamaCare? (WSJ Editorial, December 21, 2009)

Washington Post: ‘Cash for Cloture:’ “Indeed, the proliferation of deals has outpaced the ability of Capitol Hill cynics to name them. Gator Aid: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) inserted a grandfather clause that would allow Floridians to preserve their pricey Medicare Advantage program. Handout Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) secured Medicare coverage for anybody exposed to asbestos -- as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Mont. Iowa Pork and Omaha Prime Cuts: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) won more Medicare money for low-volume hospitals of the sort commonly found in Iowa, while Nebraska's Nelson won a "carve out" provision that would reduce fees for Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska insurers.” (Washington Post, Dana Milbank Column, December 22, 2009)

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