Rather than acknowledge the Trump administration's announced cuts, Pence changed the subject to his time as governor of Indiana.
Mike Pence was confronted by an emergency physician on Thursday about the Trump administration's plan to cut Medicaid funding. Rather than address the changes, he dodged the questions, claimed ignorance of the policy, and changed the subject to his tenure as governor of Indiana.
Rob Davidson, a Michigan-based physician and the head of the Committee to Protect Medicare, posted a video online of his conversation with Pence at a Des Moines, Iowa, diner. Davidson explained to Pence that he treats patients who rely on the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion and he is worried the entitlement cuts would hurt them.
Pence initially answered, "I hadn't heard about cuts in Medicaid." When Davidson explained that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had announced its plan to offer states a smaller block grant instead of the full Medicaid payment — an Orwellian scheme the administration is naming "Healthy Adult Opportunity" grants — Pence reminisced about his time as governor of Indiana and then falsely claimed that this change would only impact states that had not opted in to Medicaid expansion.
"When I was governor of Indiana, I got a waiver from the Obama administration so we could expand Medicaid coverage in the state." Pence told Davidson. "[W]e expanded coverage in Indiana."
When Davidson answered that he was concerned about the Trump administration's current actions, Pence replied, "Those are waivers for states that didn't take expansion money."
Davidson corrected Pence, pointing out that planned cuts were "for people who took expansion money too" and asked whether it was a good or bad idea.
Pence again dodged the question, accusing Davidson of "oversimplifying."
1/2 I just ran into @VP Mike Pence at the Drake Diner in Des Moines. I confronted him about his damaging health care cuts because for me it's not about politics, it's about saving lives.#DrakeUniversity #IowaCaucus #TrumpRallyIA #MedTwitter pic.twitter.com/LuXQcl9GVn
— Dr. Rob Davidson (@DrRobDavidson) January 31, 2020
Davidson tweeted on Thursday night that Pence "deflected and denied knowledge of the policy. He either doesn't understand, or doesn't care about the impact of this administrations' policies on patients everywhere."
As of Friday morning, the video of the exchange had been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
The idea of giving strictly limited block grants to the states and letting them use it as they like, rather than reimbursing them based on the amount beneficiaries' care actually costs, was part of the unpopular and unsuccessful Trumpcare proposal in 2017. Unable to get such a plan through Congress, the administration is now trying to rename it and unilaterally implement it. It is unclear whether the move is legal.
While Democratic-controlled state governments are unlikely to opt for the reduced "Healthy Adult Opportunity" block grants, they could mean significant cuts to the program for poorer people in conservative states.
As a candidate, Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, and charged that his Republican and Democratic opponents would destroy them. Last week, he announced that he planned to cut those mandatory programs later this year, telling CNBC, "At the right time we will take a look at that," he said. "You know that's actually the easiest all things, if you look, because it's such a low percentage."
After his political opponents criticized of the statement, Trump promised to preserve Social Security (though notably not Medicare or Medicaid) and made the baseless claim that "Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!"
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.