Trump administration disguises plan to cut poor people's health care


The administration is renaming its efforts to cut Medicaid as 'Healthy Adult Opportunity' grants.

The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it will allow states to accept fixed grant amounts to cover its poorest residents who obtain health care through Medicaid, a move experts say will ultimately lead to fewer insured Americans.

Republicans have long sought to implement what are known as "block grants" for Medicaid, which give states a fixed amount of funds to help cover the costs for residents enrolled in the program, rather than an open-ended funding stream.

In fact, block grants were a big part of Republicans' failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act back in 2017. Many protested the GOP repeal effort because those very block grants would be responsible for kicking millions of people off their health insurance.

However, despite the fact that the public roundly rejected the GOP's block grant proposal, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma has been quietly working to offer block grants for more than a year, according to Politico.

Politico reported that Verma views the block grants as a way to stop the expansion of health care coverage to more Americans that was granted by the ACA, better known as Obamacare.

Verma — who made headlines in December when she tried to force taxpayers to foot the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry that she said was stolen from her — is branding the block grant policy as the "Healthy Adult Opportunity" program. And she announced it the same day the Trump administration took credit for an increase in life expectancy in the United States.

Residents in states with Democratic governors are unlikely to be impacted by the program, as Democratic governors would be unlikely to switch to a block grant funding mechanism for their Medicaid population.

However conservative governors — some of whom have refused to take up the offer to expand Medicaid coverage granted by Obamacare — may well choose to take the block grants, which would impact the poorest residents of their states.

Tennessee's Republican governor has been exploring the possibility of Medicaid block grants, as has Alaska's GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Politico reported that the plan is likely to face legal challenges, and could be blocked from implementation.

If that happened, it wouldn't be the first time one of Verma's efforts to target poor Americans was rejected by a federal judge: Verma's Medicaid work requirements were blocked by a federal judge last March and are still being challenged in court.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.