Mary Landrieu defends 'Louisiana Purchase' Medicaid deal
By Shailagh Murray
A defiant Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) lambasted critics of a costly Medicaid provision she secured for her home state as part of the Senate health-care bill, describing it as an emergency bailout to avert cuts in benefits to poor Louisianans.
The provision was added to legislation as it headed to the Senate floor, and was quickly dubbed the "Louisiana Purchase." Valued at up to $400 million, the Landrieu provision is far more lucrative than the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback," a Nebraska-only Medicaid perk worth about $100 million that was added to lock down the support of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
In a 30-minute Senate floor speech, Landrieu described how a faulty Medicaid formula for her state, related to a surge in federal aid following Hurricane Katrina, had created a Medicaid funding gap of up to $600 million. She provided letters and other documents to show support from Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and GOP members of the Louisiana congressional delegation, including Sen. David Vitter, who voted against the Senate bill.
With the health-care reform effort now hanging by a thread, the Landrieu and Nelson provisions have been singled out by conservative critics, and even some frustrated Democrats, as examples of backroom deals that helped sour voters on the effort. But while Nelson has offered to relinquish his funding, in the context of saying he wanted all states to receive the higher Medicaid reimbursement rate he had secured for Nebraska, Landrieu asserted, "I make no apologies. I do not back up an inch."
Web Politics Editor
February 4, 2010; 2:45 PM ET
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