In a bizarre new twist in the saga of Ben Nelson trying to explain away the “Cornhusker kickback,” he’s now boasting that his sweetheart deal helped blow the whistle on the unfunded mandates imposed on states as a result of the Medicaid expansion in the health care legislation.
The Omaha World-Herald reports:
“The president’s plan would significantly shrink a $35 billion unfunded federal mandate set to hit all states in health reform, which had gone unnoticed until I blew the whistle,” Nelson said Monday. “I have said all along that the federal government needs to either fully fund the new Medicaid costs for states, or to un-mandate the requirement on state budgets.”
The president’s proposal doesn’t quite do either. It calls for the federal government to cover the full cost of the expansion between 2014 and 2017, then 95 percent between 2018 and 2019 and 90 percent after that.
In reality, critics were making an issue about the cost of the Medicaid expansion to states throughout last year. I wrote extensively about it last summer, and in July, the New York Times ran a story from the National Governors Association meeting about how both Democratic and Republican governors were worried about the cost of the Medicaid expansion. The article quoted Tennessee’s Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen as saying “he feared Congress was about to bestow ‘the mother of all unfunded mandates.'”
If Nelson wants to argue that in cutting a deal that was so corrupt and unfair, and possibly unconstitutional, that he created enough national outrage to expose the financial burden health care legislation would put on states, so be it. But it’s kind of absurd to portray himself as some sort of heroic crusader.