It was the Christmas season of 2009. The Democrats, who controlled the Senate at the time, were doing everything that they could to sabotage American health care by pushing through the Affordable Care Act.
There was one problem: they needed 60, not 51 votes to break a Republican-led filibuster. To make that happen, backroom deals were made with recalcitrant Democrats in an effort to essentially “buy” their votes.
One of those Democrats was Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The Democrats bought him off by guaranteeing that that the federal government would pay for Medicaid expansion in his home state. It certainly was an affordable deal: the price tag for the expansion was only $45 million. That’s a measly price compared to the trillions that ObamaCare will eventually cost.
The deal was derided by conservatives and Republican leaders alike as the “cornhusker kickback”. Sen. Nelson, they claimed, had sold his principles and hurt the people of his state by accepting a relatively insignificant payout.
It wasn’t just pundits and politicians that criticized Nelson. He was literally booed out of a pizza parlor by his own constituents. He eventually decided, quite wisely, not to run for re-election.
The rest is history. The Democrats got their crucial 60th vote. ObamaCare eventually passed.
Fast forward to 2013. Let’s dispense with the political ramifications for a moment and ask the following question: was the Cornhusker Kickback worth it to the people of Nebraska?
Nope. Health insurance premiums in that state will go up between 21% and 143%.
Tom Gilsdorf, director of product development at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska countered: “An apples-to-apples comparison of 2013 health insurance costs to 2014 costs is virtually impossible,” he said. “Health insurance that will be sold to individuals, families and small businesses for 2014 is new and must cover a range of Essential Health Benefits that were not covered in the past.”
Lower-cost options are available to Nebraskans that are not shown in a one page 2013-to-2014 comparison sample posted by the department.
In the example, the cost of a Blue Cross Blue Shield “silver” plan covering 70 percent of health costs was $245 a month for a 30-year-old single man living in Lincoln, up 82 percent from a year ago, and for Coventry, $271.65, up 143 percent.
Family coverage in Hastings on a silver plan for a 50-year-old single mother with three children was almost $1,000, up 21 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield and down 5 percent for Coventry, at $975.
Prediction: people in bars all across Nebraska will be throwing darts at Sen. Nelson’s picture soon.