Conway: Healthcare provision 'distasteful'

John O'Brien Jan. 8, 2010, 3:00pm


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, a U.S. Senate hopeful, has not ruled out joining Republican state attorneys general probing the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback" provision of proposed healthcare reform.

Conway, a Democrat seeking a U.S. Senate seat this year, wrote state Rep. Jeff Hoover Friday to tell him he finds a provision benefitting only Nebraska "distasteful" and will consider action to protect the Kentucky Medicaid program.

Hoover had requested Conway investigate or challenge the constitutionality of the healthcare package.

"I think your request is premature," Conway wrote to Hoover. "As an attorney yourself, you know that a constitutional challenge to a bill that has not been passed or signed into law would not be ripe for consideration by courts."

A provision in the Senate-approved health care plan exempts Nebraska from having to pay Medicaid expense increases. The language was inserted into the bill to gain the support of Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, who offered the 60th and final vote late last month needed to pass the plan aimed at expanding access to health care.

A group of 13 Republican attorneys general led by South Carolina's Henry McMaster has been vocal in its intent to challenge the provision.

Nelson claims he is in discussions with other senators to offer the provision to the 49 other states.

"I cannot stop the United States Senate from making shady deals and passing bad legislation, but I can object to a violation of the Constitution and take actions as attorney general to stop it," Alabama Attorney General Troy King said.

Other attorneys general in McMaster's group are Washington's Rob McKenna, Michigan's Mike Cox, Texas' Greg Abbott, Colorado's John Suthers, North Dakota's Wayne Stenehjem, Virginia's Bill Mims, Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett, Utah's Mark Shurtleff, Florida's Bill McCollum, Idaho's Lawrence Wasden and South Dakota's Marty Jackley.

"You can trust that I will closely be monitoring the debate over this provision and will consider whether action by my office is necessary to protect Kentucky's Medicaid program," Conway said.

"In doing so, I am acting in the best interests of our Commonwealth and without regard for political party."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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