Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009 | 9:22 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made no apologies three months ago when he secured in the health care bill 100 percent federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid in Nevada.
The sweetheart deal was impressive. Only Nevada and a handful of other states hard hit by the recession were given such treatment.
Republican opponents cried foul over the special treatment, but Reid refused to back down.
The proposal to expand Medicaid has been a contentious one. Governors on both sides of the political aisle have expressed reservations about being saddled with greater costs in funding the state-run health insurance program for more low-income children and families.
Eventually, a later version of the legislation gave all states full, 100 percent funding for the first three years of the Medicaid expansion. After that, states would have to spend about 15 cents on every $1 they receive from the federal government for the program.
But on Saturday, as the final version of the bill was released, the deal Reid cut was even sweeter for one state — Nebraska.
To win the vote of Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a final holdout, Reid offered the senator’s state full, 100 percent funding for the Medicaid expansion for the indefinite future.
Again, Reid offered no apologies.
“You’ll find a number of states are treated differently than other states,” Reid said after he unveiled the bill. “That’s what legislation is all about. It’s compromise.”
The deal could prove problematic for Reid in Nevada, where his potential Republican opponents in the 2010 election have complained that he is not using his leadership to do enough for Nevada during the recession.
But Reid’s office has said previously that if Nevada’s economy is still troubled in three years and the state needs full Medicaid funding, Reid can work on securing it then.
On Sunday, Republicans seized on the special treatment. One after another, Republican senators sought to amend the health care bill to cut the same Medicaid deal for other states.
One by one their entreaties were rejected by Democrats.
When one Republican sought to extend the deal to Montana, the home state of Sen. Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee said, “As enticing as that might sound, I object.”
Reid spokesman Tom Brede noted the other achievements in the bill that would come to Nevada:
“In addition to securing three years of full funding for Medicaid, Sen. Reid worked to ensure the following for Nevadans in the Senate's health insurance reform bill:
“Affordable coverage for the more than 500,000 who do not currently have insurance; tax credits for more than 300,000 to purchase coverage; lower premiums and prescription drug costs for Nevada's 328,000 Medicare beneficiaries; and tax credits for 24,000 small businesses to make coverage more affordable for their employees.”