Six Dem Governors Hold Out On Health Care Letter

October 5, 2009 12:50 p.m.

It gives a sense of how tough the health care battle is that Democrats could only get 22 of the 28 governors from their own party to sign a letter to Congressional leaders urging they pass a bill this year.

It’s a standard letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner, telling them states “will only achieve the health care security and stability they need if we succeed in working together with the Congress and the President to achieve health care reform.”

But missing from the signatures at the bottom are six governors: Mike Beebe (AR), Jay Nixon (MO), Bev Perdue (NC), John Lynch (NH), Dave Freudenthal (WY) and Brad Henry (OK).

The letter, circulated by Reid’s office and the Democratic Governors Association late Friday, is by no stretch of the imagination controversial.“The status quo is no longer an option and we support getting health reform done this year,” the letter reads, making no mention of the public option or anything else that might rattle politicians.

A DGA spokeswoman said the letter circulated quickly, so that could explain some of the missing names, but a Senate leadership aide told me Democrats “got as many as we could” but wouldn’t comment further.

I’ve reached out to each governor and will update as they get back to me.

Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson wouldn’t comment directly about the letter, but said her (newly elected) boss has been vocal in North Carolina about her concerns with the health care plan.

“She understands reform is necessary and is very carefully watching what is going on at the federal level,” Pearson told me. “She wants to make sure reforms don’t place an undue financial burden on the states.”

The letter closes with:

“We recognize that health reform is a shared responsibility and everyone, including state governments, needs to partner to reform our broken health care system. We thank you for your leadership in this historic effort and look forward to continuing to work together to get health reform passed this year.”

Governors provided a nice boost when President Obama was pushing his stimulus plan this winter. The White House has said support from the states would help during this fight, too.

Last week, as The Hill noted, 14 of the 22 Republican governors signed a letter criticizing the Baucus health care bill which will soon get a vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

Late update: An Freudenthal aide said the Wyoming governor didn’t sign the letter because some staffers were out of town and it fell through the cracks.

But Lynch spokesman Colin Manning told me tonight that like Perdue in North Carolina, the New Hampshire governor also is worried about costs.

Manning said Lynch is closely following the debate and considering what costs the Senate Finance Committee bill would leave for the states to shoulder (or what it would save).

“While we agree with much of the sentiment in the letter, we did not sign on because the letter didn’t adequately stress the importance of addressing cost issues for states,” he said, adding New Hampshire is under financial pressure thanks to the recession and Medicaid costs rising.

“To the extent health reform proposals expand access to Medicaid without covering the additional costs, states like New Hampshire would face significant financial burden – a burden we simply can’t absorb,” he said. “That is why Governors are urging Congress to ensure that the final bill accounts for additional Medicaid costs, and we remain very hopeful that will happen.”

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