Deep In Health Bill, Very Specific Bribes

Yall remember William Cold Cash Jefferson? Do you remember what happened? A private individual promised to give him $400K if Jefferson would help a high tech company called iGate by persuading the Army to test iGates products, as well as attempts to influence officials in 3 countries. He was caught on tape taking $100K. Obviously, Jefferson did wrong, and is paying the price in jail. Could someone explain how it was wrong to do what he did, but, this is OK?

Buried in the deal-clinching health care package that Senate Democrats unveiled over the weekend is an inconspicuous proposal expanding Medicare to cover certain victims of “environmental health hazards.”

The intended beneficiaries are identified in a cryptic, mysterious way: individuals exposed to environmental health hazards recognized as a public health emergency in a declaration issued by the federal government on June 17.

And who might those individuals be? It turns out they are people exposed to asbestos from a vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont.

For a decade, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, has been trying to get the government to help them. He is in a position to deliver now because he is chairman of the Finance Committee and a principal author of the health care bill.

So, Baucus has his bribe in his bill. What else?

Items were inserted into the bill by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, to get or keep the support of various lawmakers. He needs support from all 60 members of his caucus to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the bill by his self-imposed Christmas deadline.

Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, was the critical final Democrat to endorse the bill. He obtained tighter restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion, and additional Medicaid money and other benefits for his state.

Another provision of the bill would increase Medicare payments to certain “low-volume hospitals” treating limited numbers of Medicare patients. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Senate health committee, said this “important fix” would help midsize Iowa hospitals in Grinnell, Keokuk and Spirit Lake.

Another item in Mr. Reid’s package specifies the data that Medicare officials should use in adjusting payments to hospitals to reflect local wage levels. The officials can use certain new data only if it produces a higher index and therefore higher Medicare payments for these hospitals.

Senate Democrats said this provision would benefit hospitals in Connecticut and Michigan.

Mary Landrieu got her $100 million health legislation vote bribe. Certainly, there are lots and lots of these same political games, which is what we end up calling them, rather then what they are: bribes.

William Jefferson is spending 13 years in jail for taking money from a private entity in an attempt to use his influence to help a company and make some calls. Somehow, it is OK for members of Congress to bribe each other for votes.

However, Mark Steyn wonders if it is actually bribery.