Terry Goddard (D)

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)-Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, one of a handful of Democratic AGs opposed to a provision in federal health care legislation that would allow Nebraska to avoid increased Medicaid costs, outlined his objections Friday in a letter to his state's congressional delegation.

Goddard, in his letter, urged his state's congressional lawmakers to help strip the controversial provision from the bill.

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

"The 'sweetheart deal' for Nebraska is a rotten deal for Arizona and every other state," Goddard said. "This provision is poor public policy and needs to be removed before this important health care bill is enacted."

More than a dozen Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action if the provision is enacted. Among Democrats who have voiced opposition to the so-called Cornhusker Kickback, in addition to Goddard, is Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

Goddard's letter follows his rejecting earlier calls by Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to investigate the constitutionality of the Nebraska deal. Goddard, who is widely expected to run for governor this year against Brewer, said her request was premature, noting that the federal health care bill has not been finalized.

Goddard had asked Brewer to join him in sending Friday's letter. He said the governor declined his offer.

"I was surprised and disappointed that the Governor was unwilling to join me in this letter," Goddard said. "The message would have been stronger if we could have acted together."

The Senate-approved bill requires that the states provide Medicaid coverage to anyone making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

For his part, Nelson, the Nebraska senator, has come out 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 plan.

Before a final health care bill is sent to President Barack Obama, 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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