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Healthcare reform backlash: Americans angry over earmarks

Healthcare reform legislation often means cutting 'deals,' but public anger over earmarks may further gridlock healthcare reform.

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Forget the old saw about the perils of knowing too much about how sausages or laws are made. Americans, it turns out, wanted to know a lot about the backroom deals that went into the healthcare bill.

Stung by months of criticism of a $300 million deal over Medicaid payments, dubbed "the Louisiana purchase," Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) took to the Senate floor yesterday to set the record straight. The deal – an agreement to lower Medicaid charges to the state due to per capita income figures artificially inflated by post-Katrina relief payments – was not secret, she said. Nor was it offered in exchange for her vote on healthcare reform.

"I don't want to see what has been said inappropriately or erroneously to jeopardize the healthcare bill in the future," she told reporters after the speech.

President Obama has acknowledged that these deals helped turn the public against the legislation. "With all the lobbying and horse-trading, the process left most Americans wondering, 'What's in it for me?' " he said in his State of the Union address.

For many Americans, those "sweetheart deals," tucked into the legislation for certain states or groups, became a flash point.

Terms for these deals – including the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker kickback, and the Cadillac tax exemption – went viral over the Internet. Newspapers and broadcast media also picked up reports about the deals – accurate or not.

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