Okla. AG Edmondson could challenge Cornhusker Kickback

Chris Rizo Jan. 13, 2010, 2:13am

Drew Edmondson (D)

TULSA, Okla. (Legal Newsline)-Oklahoma's Democratic attorney general, Drew Edmondson, could join with his Republican counterparts from at least 13 other states in challenging a controversial provision in the federal health care overhaul pending in Congress.

Edmondson, who is running for governor, is believed to be working with Republican attorneys general in possibly challenging a Senate-approved provision in the national health care overhaul that would exempt Nebraska from increased Medicaid expenses.

The measure, which has become decried as the "Cornhusker Kickback," was part of a deal that got Democrats the 60th and final vote necessary to pass the Senate health care bill, drafted by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The final vote came from Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

Tulsa Today reported last week that Edmonson could be joining legal forces with Republican attorneys general, including Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Greg Abbott of Texas and Mark Shurtleff of Utah.

Replying to a question from Tulsa Daily, Edmondson spokesman Charlie Price reportedly said: "Attorney General Drew Edmondson is already working with a group of state Attorneys General about their concerns with the Nebraska part of that U.S. Senate health care bill. There are lawyers in several states have raised concerns about this, who are looking at constitutional concerns and other legal issues in this matter. The attorney general thinks this 'doesn't pass the smell test.' It's not a matter of 'is he going to do anything,' he is already talking with others and working on that."

For his part, Nelson, the Nebraska senator, came out last week saying that all states -- not just his -- should be able to opt out of increased payments to Medicaid mandated under the proposed Senate health care legislation.

"I've been in serious discussions with Senate leaders and others to secure changes in the bill to treat all states equally," Nelson said. "At the end of the day, whatever Nebraska gets will apply to all states."

The Senate legislation requires that the states provide Medicaid coverage to anyone making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- a move that will likely expand the number of Medicaid-eligible persons throughout the country and increase the financial burden on the states since they bankroll part of the program.

Before a final bill is sent to President Barack Obama, who has made health care reform the cornerstone of his domestic policy agenda, the House and Senate bills must be reconciled in conference committee.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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