Not to give a platform to a lame duck, but Rell’s outrage over the healthcare reform bill is ridiculous on two fronts:
A provision written into the massive bill will allow the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska to court U.S. Senator Ben Nelson’s vote.
“The inequity of this provision is astonishing,“ Rell wrote in her letter to Blumenthal. “The doling out of favors for senators is appalling. The cost of this federal health care bill is beyond comprehension because of all the special provisions included to garner the 60 votes for passage.” [...]
“While everyone has received something, Nebraska’s “gift” is particularly galling,” Rell wrote in her letter. “In this time of extraordinary fiscal challenge, when states are facing record budget deficits and are seeing HUSKY and Medicaid case loads growing, all could use 100 percent reimbursement.”
First, while Nelson secured an additional grant of $45 billion for Nebraska’s Medicaid expenses over the next decade, our own Senator Dodd laid claim to more than twice that for the UConn Health Center. So it’s not obvious that Connecticut got the short end of the deal by any measure.
But more to the point, that Rell is jumping aboard a conservative protest to see 100% Federal Medicaid funding in all 50 states is bizarre, since liberals inside of Congress and out would love to see Medicaid become a fully Federal program. As it stands, with Medicaid structured as a matching-funds programs, benefits are significantly less generous in states with a smaller tax base – arguably, the states that have the greatest need for Federal support for low-income healthcare coverage. As Tom Harkin says (c/o Ezra Klein):
“When you look at it, I thought well, God, good, it is going to be the impetus for all the states to stay at 100 percent [federal funding],” Harkin told reporters. “So he might have done all of us a favor.”
While Connecticut is not short on poverty and polarization, we’re also not one of the states that’s unable to afford our share of the matching dollars. While funding services for the poor apparently has less electoral upside in the state than cutting taxes for the wealthy, Rell’s demand to federalize Medicaid nationwide would not, I imagine, do very much to cut the taxes of the state’s top-income-bracket residents. But I’m sure someone sent Senator Harkin of Iowa her letter, and that he’s got a little smile on his face thinking of the day when he’ll be able to pull her protest out of the file as evidence that even wealthy Connecticut’s Republican Governor supports this massive expansion of Federal spending.
When that day comes, even Rell’s harshest critics will have to acknowledge that she’s done some good for the country, however tangentially.