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President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma looks on  at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 18, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'People, Poor Disabled People in Particular, Are Going to Die': Trump Takes Axe to Medicaid

"Trump wants to destroy Medicaid while claiming to save it. This fiendish scheme is an Orwellian fable conjured up by the most shameless pack of liars to ever occupy our government."

Jake Johnson

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled a plan allowing states to convert federal Medicaid funding into block grants, a longstanding conservative goal that critics warn could have deadly consequences for millions of vulnerable people who rely on the healthcare program as a major source of income.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced the so-called "Healthy Adult Opportunity" initiative in a statement claiming the policy will "improve health outcomes and care" for low-income people.

"Trump's plan will ensure that many working families who are currently covered by Medicaid will face cuts to their services, wait lists for needed care, and the risk of medical debt and bankruptcy from trying to pay for illness."
—Eagan Kemp, Public Citizen

Progressive advocacy groups warned the plan could do precisely the opposite by giving states a green light to cut Medicaid spending and divert federal funding to other state programs, potentially leaving millions without essential healthcare coverage.

"People, poor disabled people in particular, are going to die," tweeted Alice Wong, director of the Disability Visibility Project. "Not an exaggeration."

Urging the public to look beyond the plan's benign label, Public Citizen healthcare policy advocate Eagan Kemp said President Donald Trump's "nefarious program is just a Medicaid block grant by another name, and the only opportunity it will provide is to miss out on needed care or go broke trying to get it."

"Trump's plan will ensure that many working families who are currently covered by Medicaid will face cuts to their services, wait lists for needed care, and the risk of medical debt and bankruptcy from trying to pay for illness," Kemp said in a statement. "These further attempts to cut health care are just more evidence that Americans need Medicare for All now to protect their access to care once and for all."

The proposal, which is likely to face legal challenges, invites states to apply for a waiver to receive a lump-sum payment from the federal government for Medicaid instead of open-ended matching funds. Right-wing supporters of block-granting Medicaid claim it would give states more "flexibility," but critics warn the move could limit states' ability to increase healthcare spending in response to public need.

"Any state taking this offer is engaging in fiscal malpractice," Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy with advocacy group Families USA, said in a statement. "Furthermore, the administration is acting lawlessly. None of the statute regarding Medicaid match rates can be waived administratively."

"We are better than this, and we—the American people—must hold the Trump administration and Republican members of Congress accountable," said Fishman.

Congressional Democrats joined healthcare advocacy groups in condemning the plan.

"Trump wants to destroy Medicaid while claiming to save it," tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.). "This fiendish scheme is an Orwellian fable conjured up by the most shameless pack of liars to ever occupy our government. Never forget Republicans' goal is to steal healthcare from as many Americans as they can."

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, said in a statement that "even after people across the country spoke out and pressed Congress to reject President Trump’s plan to gut Medicaid with his Trumpcare bill, he's still charging forward with harmful policies that will hurt the many families who rely on Medicaid."


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Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·


Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·


'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·