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Nelson says he wants Medicaid deal for all states

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Sen. Ben Nelson said Thursday he’s asked Democratic leadership to extend to all states the extra Medicaid funding promised to Nebraska in the health care reform bill.

But the Democrat wouldn’t say who he’s spoken to regarding the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback” but he’d see to it that Nebraska doesn’t get a special deal.

“At the end of the day, whatever Nebraska gets will be available to all states,” Nelson said during a conference call with reporters.

In exchange for his crucial support of the reform bill, Nelson was promised federal funding to cover Nebraska’s entire cost of a Medicaid expansion included in the bill. Other states will have to begin picking up a portion of the added expanse beginning in 2017.

Nebraska wasn’t alone in getting Medicaid breaks. Vermont, Louisiana and Massachusetts also got help with their programs.

Nelson said Thursday that if he can’t secure a similar deal for every state, he wants states to be freed from paying the cost of Medicaid expansion. That would mean eliminating the provision or finding another way to pay for it.

“States that are concerned about Nebraska getting something that they’re not getting should rest at ease,” Nelson said. “That’s not going to happen.”

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday urged the state’s lawmakers to vote against the reform measure unless they can negotiate a special deal for more Medicaid money. Thirteen state attorneys general also have threatened to sue if Nebraska’s extra Medicaid funding were not removed from the measure in conference committee.

Nelson said Thursday that he expects all states will get extra Medicaid funding, but he wouldn’t speculate on whether he’d vote against the reform measure if Nebraska was still singled out.

The senator said his top concerns about the bill continue to be making sure federal money won’t pay for abortions and the exclusion of a government-run insurance plan.

“Those were the two dealmakers — or deal-breakers,” he said.