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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Health Care Summit: We Rebut A Pre-buttal

The conservative American Future Fund has released an attack ad in anticipation of President Obama’s health care summit with Democrats and Republicans at the Blair House on Thursday. The group said the ad would air on cable television during the week.

It says that the president and liberals want to build on a health care bill that includes "Backroom Deals" including a "Cornhusker Kickback" and a "Louisiana Purchase."

  • The "Cornhusker Kickback" claim is outdated. That was a nickname given by Republicans to an exemption within the Senate-passed health care bill. It would have given the state of Nebraska federal funds to cover the state’s share of the bill’s Medicaid expansion costs, and it was put in to win the support of the state’s Sen. Ben Nelson. But Nebraska’s special treatment would be removed under the new health care proposal that President Obama released on Monday. His plan includes increased funding for all states, not just Nebraska. It provides for "uniform 100% Federal support for all States for newly eligible individuals from 2014 through 2017, 95% support for 2018 and 2019, and 90% for 2020 and subsequent years."
  • The "Louisiana Purchase" is another Republican nickname, this one describing a piece of the Senate bill that would provide between $100 million and $300 million in additional federal Medicaid money for Louisiana. That would come about through a "special adjustment" in something called the "Federal Medical Assistance Percentage," allegedly to secure the vote of the state’s Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. But Landrieu was not the only state official pushing for this change; Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal also clamored for it, saying the Medicaid formula contained an unintended "Katrina tax" on the state. His administration argued strongly that post-Katrina disaster aid had artificially increased Louisiana’s per-capita income, triggering an unintended cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates for the state. In a briefing document dated Aug. 11, 2009, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals argued that "[C]ongress never intended to punish states who experience major disasters" and said "all of us must make this the number one focus in Louisiana." And for the record, Sen. Landrieu said that the FMAP adjustment was "never a condition of my vote."

The ad also objects to "$500 billion in Medicare cuts." It’s true that both the House and Senate bills would be financed largely by such "cuts" — or more correctly, reductions in the future growth of Medicare spending. But as we’ve said any number of times before, slowing down the growth of overall spending does not necessarily imply cuts in benefit levels or services. We made that point, for example, when the Republican candidate for president, John McCain, proposed to finance his own health care plan through similar reductions in future Medicare growth, and was falsely accused by then-candidate Obama of proposing cuts in benefits.