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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Healthcare Pork in 2010

The following is adapted from a Dana Milbank column in The Washington Post on December 22nd:

There was an extra cost for the Senate bill – lots of Christmas gifts under their tree, or what could also be called PORK!
Here is what the Obama Administration gave away to get the bill passed – This is our money and it was not listed as part of the cost of the Senate bill! And, we thought those Senators who fed at the trough were standing up for what they believed in. Here is what they got:

$100 million in extra Medicaid money for Louisiana, requested by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

$100 million in extra Medicaid money and a “carve out” provision that would reduce fees for Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska insurers , this time for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

Connecticut got $100 million meant for a medical center in Connecticut for Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) secured a grandfather clause will allow Floridians to preserve their pricey Medicare Advantage program from cuts imposed in the other states.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) secured Medicare coverage for anybody exposed to asbestos – as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Montana.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) won more Medicare money for low-volume hospitals commonly found in Iowa.

Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, both North Dakota Democrats, will enjoy a provision bringing higher Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in “frontier counties” of states such as – let’s see here – North Dakota!

Hawaii, with two Democratic Senators, will get richer payments to hospitals that treat many uninsured people.

Michigan, home of two other Democrats, will earn higher Medicare payments and some reduced fees for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

What socialism means in Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting larger Medicaid payments for his state (neighboring Massachusetts will get some, too).

The Senate and House bills must be reconciled and then go back for a vote in the Senate and House

Pelosi and Reid are conferring with each other about how to reconcile the differences between the two bills. It is possible they might avoid a formal conference committee because of the many procedural hurdles to appoint conferees, including Republican opposition and various time consuming matters pertaining to rules and procedures.
So, some sort of “informal” conference committee could be established, bypassing congressional rules. In such a committee a few Senate and House Democrats might literally write a new bill (taking pieces from each of the House and Senate passed bills). Both chambers of Congress would have to approve the new bill.

So, if you like all this, clap your hands and wait for the bill that no one will read and will vote for anyway. If you don’t like this, you and all your friends should flood the phones and e-mail mailboxes of these senators and congressmen urging them to vote against passage of the bill. Who knows? They might even listen to you. But don’t count on it.

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