While the Democrats hailed the SCHIP legislation as protecting America's children, its real intent appears to be protecting Democratic backsides. It rewards hospitals in suburban Democratic districts such as Maurice Hinchey's in New York and Bart Stupak's in Michigan by forcing Medicare to pay above-market rates to hospitals in those areas. The Democrats hid these earmarks by casting them in gobbledygook geographical descriptions that sound broad but actually describe specific hospitals.This is actually a fairly common practice, meant to cover a couple of matters. First, as Morrisey points out, it does hide somewhat, the beneficiary of federal largess. Second, though, it covers a number of contingencies, such as specifically naming a hospital or other facility that may change hands or names.
Democrats want to exploit Medicare to pay above-market rates in these hospitals to curry favor with unions and with local voters. For instance, a rural Alabama hospital that has not even yet been built will get higher payments from Medicare because it will be listed as a "critical access" facility. It normally wouldn't qualify for that status because of the proximity of another hospital, but Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) got language waiving the standard for any hospital built in Butler. Coincidentally, that's just where Rush Health Systems had planned to build the new hospital.
I admit that is seems shady and the members do need to show a little spine and actually claim their earmarks. But the practice is not all that scandalous since the language is not all that "gobbledygook" because it does have to be precise enough for someone to find it and usually is with Mapquest or Google Earth.