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Democrats Question Trump's Effort To Allow States To Penalize Medicaid Recipients


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks during a House and Senate conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., speaks during a House and Senate conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Senate Democrats are questioning the Trump Administration’s authority to allow states to run Medicaid programs that penalize users.

The Trump Administration released guidance last week, saying states could require Medicaid recipients to work. It said states could do other things like put lifetime caps on Medicaid benefits and impose mandatory drug testing.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and 28 other Democrats have written a letter to acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric Hargan, expressing serious concern.

“The vast majority of Americans who get the Medicaid benefit either already have a job or are unable to work due to age or impairment,” said Wyden.

“Harmful ideological policies such as work requirements, mandatory drug testing, time limits, onerous cost-sharing and the like undercut and exceed the statutory authority provided to the secretary under Section 1115 and contravene longstanding congressional intent,” said the letter.

“Ultimately, this leads to poorer health and more frequent use of the emergency room, all of which ends up costing the system and taxpayers more in the long run. Such harmful proposals clearly undermine the purpose of the Medicaid Act, prioritizing ideology over health.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently approved a Medicaid waiver for Kentucky that imposed work requirements on eligible individuals and lockout periods that would hurt low-income individuals.

States like Oregon, that embraced the Affordable Care Act, have secured federal waivers to try to improve care and reduce costs.

The Democrats worry states will use the waiver to reduce the number of Medicaid recipients in areas where the act isn’t popular.

 

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