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Opinion

EDITORIAL: D.C. dealmaking is discouraging

The government store was open for business last weekend. Senate leaders, struggling to pass health reform, brazenly bought the support of recalcitrant Democrats. That's no way to conduct the public's business.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) became the essential 60th vote when he negotiated a deal over abortion coverage. But part of what he got - an agreement for Washington to pay the entire cost of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska - left New Yorkers sucking fumes. New York would get little relief from its Medi-caid costs - not even all of the federal assistance included for almost every other state. That's just not right.

The Senate bill expands Medicaid eligibility to adults earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level: $29,327 for a family of four. It's one way the Senate would cover more of the uninsured. But since states and localities pay roughly half of the Medicaid tab, expanding eligibility would cost them money.

To soften the blow, the bill calls for Washington to pay the entire cost for newly eligible enrollees from 2014 to 2016, and a larger share than usual in later years. But since Medicaid in New York already covers parents with incomes up to 150 percent of poverty, the state would get more money for only the relatively small number of newly eligible single adults. Nebraska isn't the only state to cut a side deal. Massachusetts, Vermont and Louisiana all got state-specific breaks.

Trading spoils for votes is business as usual in Washington. But that doesn't make it any less distasteful. hN

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