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July 29, 2014

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Senate bill would cover Medicaid expansion for all states

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — The increased Medicaid funding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially scored for Nevada is now being proposed for all 50 states in his new health care bill.

The bill also includes a separate, $100 million bonus for hurricane-stricken Louisiana, the state whose senator is one of the Democratic holdouts on advancing the legislation.

Reid came under fire earlier from Republicans for having secured the special Nevada deal last month. But the majority leader proudly defended the move saying repeatedly he made “no apologies” for helping his home state with full Medicaid funding. Reid helped Nevada and three others suffering from high unemployment.

Governors complained that they cannot provide extra insurance for more poor residents under the proposed Medicaid expansion unless the federal government pays the bulk of the cost.

Now, in the bill unveiled this week, Reid is offering 100-percent funding for Medicaid expansion in all states for the first three years of the program.

“As he worked on this issue for Nevada, he saw other states needed help as well,” said Reid spokesman Jon Summers. “The fact that he took action for Nevada and was able to extend it to other states is significant.”

Separately, however, the bill includes $100 million for hurricane-hit Louisiana — an extra Republicans pounced on Thursday as special treatment for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, whom Reid has been courting as one of the final votes needed to advance the bill during Saturday’s vote.

Actually, as ABC News first reported, the $100 million goes for “certain states recovering from a major disaster” in the past seven years, noting that only one state fits that description.

In the halls this afternoon, the provision was being called the “Louisiana purchase.”

“He cut a deal, plain and simple,” said Brian Walsh, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a sharply worded press release that calls into question the Reid campaign’s assertion that as majority leader the senator delivers for Nevada.

Reid faces a difficult 2010 re-election bid, with low poll numbers in Nevada and several Republican candidates vying to oust him.

Reid’s office dismissed the criticism, saying the Republican campaign arm is trying to have it both ways — criticizing Reid when he secured the deal, and again now for delivering full funding for all states, including hard-hit Louisiana.

“As a result of his work for Nevada, he was able to help the entire country,” Summers said.

Reid had initially secured a five-year, full-funding deal for Nevada and the three other high-unemployment states in the bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee.

Under the new bill, all states will receive full funding for three years. After that, states will receive between 80 and 84 percent of funding, meaning states would have to contribute about 15 cents on every $1 they receive from the federal government.

Reid’s office said he was hopeful Nevada’s economy would improve by then and that the ranks of those needing Medicaid would decline.

But if the situation in Nevada remains difficult, Reid pledged to secure additional funds to help Nevada pay for expanded Medicaid services.

“If Nevada needs more than three years, the majority leader will get it,” his spokesman said.

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