Nelson Blasts Nebraska Governor For Threatening Teachers Over Health Care Reform

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is openly defending health care reform from Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R), who this week pressured the state’s educational professionals to choose between the new law and, potentially, their jobs.

“It’s…troubling that he’s using that misinformation to intimidate groups involved in all aspects of our children’s health, safety and education, pitting one against the other,” Nelson said of Heineman in a statement issued last night.

Nelson voted for the health care bill earlier this Congress, despite hailing from a Republican state and being one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate. Though he’s not up for re-election this year, he has since that vote distanced himself from his Democratic colleagues on several issues.

But on this issue he’s parting with Republicans.Last week Heineman used a study he’d commissioned to intimidate Nebraska education workers into thinking that the state’s Medicaid costs under the health care bill would be great enough to threaten their jobs.

“Increased funding for Medicaid is likely to result in less funding for education,” Heineman wrote in a Wednesday letter to education associations in Nebraska. “I strongly urge you to support the repeal of the recently enacted federal health care law.”

Other studies suggest Heineman is dramatically overstating the burden, and, indeed, under the terms of the health care legislation, the federal government will be assuming the costs of expanded Medicaid coverage in every state — thanks at least in part to Nelson.

“Here’s the bottom line: the governor’s study is incomplete at best and intentionally misleading people at the worst,” Nelson says. “He builds his campaign against health reform on misinformation.”

“Last December his own study done by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services estimated that expanding Medicaid in health reform would cost an additional $45 million up to 2019,” Nelson argues. “That apparently wasn’t expensive enough. So, he reportedly spent $47,000 for a new study.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that the expansion would cost Nebraska between $106 million and $155 million over the course of the decade. Heineman’s study, by contrast, projects additional costs to the state of $526 million to $766 million.

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