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President Donald Trump listens to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

'Blatant Lie': Seema Verma Claims Trump Not Cutting Medicaid as He Pushes Plan Doing Just That

"Make no mistake: the Trump administration has spent the past two years actively dismantling Medicaid by fiat—after failing to gut it legislatively."

Jake Johnson, staff writer

Healthcare advocates are calling out Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma for claiming Thursday that the Trump administration "is not cutting Medicaid" even as it moves forward with a block grant plan that critics warn would slash benefits for millions of vulnerable people across the nation.

"This is a blatant lie," Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, tweeted in response to Verma's Washington Post op-ed accusing healthcare activists—including an emergency room doctor who confronted Vice President Mike Pence over the block grant plan last week—of "fearmongering" about Medicaid cuts.

"No," states the headline of Verma's op-ed, "the Trump administration is not cutting Medicaid."

First of all, Vallas tweeted at Verma, "You authorized and are encouraging states to cut off Medicaid for millions who can't meet rigid work reporting requirements." And second, she added, "you're pushing Medicaid block grants, which could strip 14-21 million people of health insurance if enacted nationwide."

As Common Dreams reported last week, the Trump administration unveiled a proposal allowing states to convert federal Medicaid funding into fixed sums, a longstanding conservative goal that critics warn could constrain states' ability to hike spending on the program in response to an increase in public need.

Edwin Park, research professor at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University's McCourt School, wrote on Twitter that Verma's op-ed includes "many misleading claims" and warned the administration's proposed Medicaid block grants would not keep up with inflation—effectively resulting in cuts in the future.

The House of Representatives, with zero Republican votes, passed a non-binding resolution on Thursday officially condemning the Trump administration's Medicaid block grant plan as an "illegal" and "cruel attack on a program that provides for the health and well-being for some of our most vulnerable citizens."

"The Trump administration should uphold its responsibility to faithfully execute the law, including the Medicaid Act, and cease any and all efforts that threaten the care of the millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid," the resolution stated.

David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, said earlier this week that Democrats should force a vote on the resolution in the Senate to make sure all Republicans in Congress are on the record regarding Trump's attacks on the program:

Block-granting Medicaid has been Republican goal since at least the administration of former President Ronald Reagan. Bruce Bartlett, an architect of Reagan's right-wing economic agenda who has since broken with the GOP, tweeted last month that "block grants are just a Republican trick to slash spending without appearing to do so."

Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare and the physician who confronted Pence at a restaurant in Iowa last month, applauded House Democrats for denouncing the Trump administration's block grant proposal and echoed their demand that the White House "reverse this dangerous action."

"President Trump's latest healthcare cuts will endanger the health, security, and lives of millions of American families," Davidson said in a statement. "Instead of cutting healthcare as President Trump continues to do, we should expand it, protect patients with preexisting conditions, and reduce the astronomical costs of prescription drugs."

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