Pelosi to Trump: It's time for every state to expand Medicaid

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Donald Trump and Republicans to expand Medicaid during COVID-19 pandemic, not take health care away from millions of Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested a simple way for states to help residents during the coronavirus pandemic: expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under Obamacare.

Pelosi made the recommendation during a Monday press conference, while at the same time encouraging Donald Trump to stop his effort to overturn the health care act in court.

"Right now, in the middle of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is in court suing to tear down the entire Affordable Care Act — every last protection and benefit," Pelosi said.

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Pelosi noted that if Trump succeeds, protections for people with preexisting conditions, free preventative care, the ability of young people to stay on their parents' insurance, and every other benefit provided under Obamacare would be taken away. In addition, 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance.

Earlier on Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden also called on Trump and his Republican allies to drop the lawsuit.

Instead of fighting in court to overturn Obamacare, Trump "should urge the 14 states who have refused to expand Medicaid to do so," Pelosi said.

Medicaid expansion was a key part of the health care act, which former President Barack Obama signed into law exactly 10 years ago. Under Obamacare, the federal government would cover the majority of the cost for states to provide Medicaid to most people with income at up to 138% of the federal poverty line.

The 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have Republican governors, Republican-led legislatures, or both.

If Trump and Republicans followed Pelosi's advice, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates, more than 2 million currently uninsured people could gain health insurance.

Expanding Medicaid is a "shovel-ready program for investing in the health care of the rural community," Brock Slabach, executive vice president of the National Rural Hospital Association, said in a telephone interview last week. Without it, many low-income families in those 14 states must "face the threat of serious, life-threatening illness of COVID-19 infection without any coverage."

Republican state leaders' refusal to expand Medicaid also reduces their residents' access to health care. Since Obamacare was signed into law, 126 rural hospitals have closed, with 70% of the closures happening in states that have not implemented a Medicaid expansion.

"In a pandemic, you want to get early treatment and thorough treatment," Slabach said. "One of the ways to do that is to provide coverage for care," he added, calling such coverage a "necessary part of pandemic planning."

As of Monday afternoon, at least 39,819 people in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the New York Times, and at least 455 people have died as a result of the disease.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.