Just Don’t Call It Pork (Swine Reforms?)

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The Capitol Hill dual loyalty dilemma–national interest vs. provincial interest–is clearly displayed in this quote from Sen. Harry Reid, who as the top Democrat in the Senate is responsible for getting health reform to President Obama’s desk. “I make absolutely no apologies,” he says, “none – - for helping people in my state.”

The help in question is a provision in the health reform bill, inserted by Reid, that will make sure Nevada won’t face higher Medicaid costs, even though Texas, Vermont, California and 43 other states will. Bloomberg has the details:

The plan calls for “full federal funding” of Medicaid for new beneficiaries in only those states that had unemployment rates of at least 12 percent in August and whose Medicaid enrollment is below the national average. Only Nevada, Rhode Island, Michigan and Oregon meet that criteria. That prompted complaints from other lawmakers that their states would have to pay more.

As John McCain liked to say on the campaign trail, “That’s not change we can believe in.”

But wait, there’s more.

As the Bloomberg story notes, unions have secured from union-friendly Senators exemptions from the new tax on high-value health insurance plans. And Florida’s Bill Nelson has secured about $5 billion for people who currently receive Medicare Advantage, which is due to be severely cut back in the new bill. But Nelson’s provision is not earmarked for just Florida.

The measure doesn’t identify which states could get the $5 billion. The language is so confusing — those eligible include retirees in “counties where the MA benchmark amount in 2011 is equal to the legacy urban floor amount” — that even congressional aides said they aren’t sure.

Read the entire Bloomberg story here.