Sen. Ben Nelson has become so unpopular in his home state of Nebraska over his health care vote that he was recently shouted out of a local pizza joint. The most controversial aspect of his decision to vote with his fellow Democrats against the will of his constituents surrounded the so-called “Cornhusker kickback,” which would have the federal government pick up the full cost of expanding Medicaid to Nebraska and Nebraska only. Today, Nelson sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking him to remove the Nebraska provision in the health care bill and replace it with a provision that would give the same deal to all states.
The problem is that should this deal be extended to all states, it would add around $25 billion to the cost of the legislation, based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. And as it is, Democrats are scrambling to find new revenue sources after a sweetheart deal with unions over the tax on benefit-rich health insurance plans. That deal is already expected to reduce revenue by about $60 billion. That doesn’t even take into account the other measures that House Democrats are seeking, such as increasing federal subsidies to individuals purchasing insurance through the new government exchanges.
Also, keep in mind that the health care bill is supposed to cost $900 billion. Even with all of the Democrats’ accounting gimmicks, the Senate bill costs $871 billion from 2010 to 2019 according to the CBO. The Nelson deal alone would put the bill at about the $900 billion level, leaving little wiggle room for appeasing House liberals who are upset about the lack of a public option.