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Feingold Tells Democratic Leaders to Strip Special Health Care Deals

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on Thursday called on Democratic leaders to strip special deals awarded to his colleagues from the final, negotiated health care reform package, although he stopped short of saying he would vote against the bill if his demands were not met.In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Feingold targets the Medicaid provisions inserted before the Senate package passed on a party-line vote on Christmas Eve. Although Feingold does not name names, his letter is undoubtedly aimed at deals to provide extra funding for Nebraska and Louisiana secured by Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), respectively.Feingold also targets a deal secured by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to maintain the Medicare Advantage program for seniors in his state. Medicare Advantage users in all other states would no longer have access to the program under the Senate bill.In addition to those deals, the Senate’s $871 billion health care package was stocked with additional side agreements. Reid, Pelosi and President Barack Obama are working to reconcile the House and Senate health care bills and hope to complete the process before the State of the Union address, scheduled for late January or early February.Feingold’s letter reads:“As you and others meet to combine the Senate’s ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ and the House’s ‘Affordable Health Care for America Act,’ I strongly urge you to strike unwarranted provisions that were apparently inserted to win the support of certain members or interests. These ‘sweeteners’ are unjustifiable and only detract from our collective goal of putting America’s health care system on a better and more sustainable path. They also undermine public confidence in the legislative process and in elected representatives in Congress.“In some cases, there are valid policy or fairness reasons why certain states or interests may receive seemingly different treatment. But several provisions were included in the health reform bill that create, rather than diminish, inequity. Unmerited Medicaid assistance to certain states and carve-outs to avoid cuts to certain Medicare Advantage plans are indefensible. These provisions are not supported by policy rationales and do not address any inequity in current policy. Simply put, they are intended to provide an undeserved windfall to specific states.“These provisions should be omitted from the health reform bill brought to Congress for final consideration.—

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