NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 9, 2009

How good is Sen. Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) health reform bill?  So good that Democrats have made sure some of the most costly provisions don't apply to their own state, says author Kimberley A. Strassel.

The Senate Finance Committee is gearing up for a final vote next week and Chairman Baucus now appears to have the Democratic votes to pass his bill.  Getting this far has of course meant cutting deals, and those deals are illuminating.  The senators are all for imposing "reform" on the nation, so long as it doesn't disadvantage their constituents, explains Strassel.

A central feature of the Baucus bill is the vast expansion of state Medicaid programs:

  • This is necessary, we are told, to cover more of the nation's uninsured.
  • The provision has angered governors, since the federal government will cover only part of the expansion and stick fiscally strapped states with an additional $37 billion in costs.
  • The "states, with our financial challenges right now, are not in a position to accept additional Medicaid responsibilities," griped Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

If only Strickland lived in Nevada, says Strassel:

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is worried about losing his seat next year, worked out a deal by which the federal government will pay all of his home state's additional Medicaid expenses for the next five years.
  • Under the majority leader's very special formula, only three other states -- Oregon, Rhode Island and Michigan -- qualify for this perk, on the grounds, as Reid put it recently on the Senate floor, that they "are suffering more than most."

Tell that to Strickland, who is still trying to figure out how to close an $850 million budget hole in a state with near 11 percent unemployment.  And tell it to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who quipped: "I wonder how citizens in Wyoming, in California and Florida and other states will feel if they pay more taxes so that Nevadans can pay less taxes."

So, health care "reform" is good, smart and necessary, so long as it isn't fully applied to the states of the senators who are pushing it.  The Democrats' growing problem is that somebody is ultimately going to have to pay, and Sen. Reid's bad example has given every one the same idea, says Strassel. 

Source: Kimberley A. Strassel, "States of Personal Privilege," Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2009.

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