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Trumpian Philosophy: Any Regulation Is Bad, Even If It Protects Sick Old People

Nursing home residents beware.

"The brains behind this latest move is Seema Verma, a conservative healthcare specialist out of Indiana, where she worked for the administrations of both the overrated Mitch Daniels and the unrated Mike Pence." (Photo: Getty)

"The brains behind this latest move is Seema Verma, a conservative healthcare specialist out of Indiana, where she worked for the administrations of both the overrated Mitch Daniels and the unrated Mike Pence." (Photo: Getty)

In about five years or so, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 50 Pulitzer Prize winners are going to have this administration* to thank. This is because nothing is a greater boon to investigative journalism than the kind of soulless, reckless deregulation in which the president* and his henchpeople are becoming expert. Wednesday’s example comes to us from The New York Times, and isn’t this decision going to be a lovely one when they come for Medicare because of the “unexpected” explosion of the deficit due to the abomination of a tax bill they just passed.

The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president. The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. The American Health Care Association, the industry’s main trade group, has complained that under President Barack Obama, federal inspectors focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve.

That last sentence is a real keeper, isn’t it? If you keep punishing us for our substandard practices, we won’t be able to improve our substandard practices. Punishment for breaking laws is a hindrance to our abiding by them. Thousands of criminal defense lawyers are wondering why they didn’t think of that one first.

The new guidelines discourage regulators from levying fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death. The guidelines will also probably result in lower fines for many facilities. The change in policy aligns with Mr. Trump’s promise to reduce bureaucracy, regulation and government intervention in business.

Emphasis mine. Well, mine and offended common sense.

The brains behind this latest move is Seema Verma, a conservative healthcare specialist out of Indiana, where she worked for the administrations of both the overrated Mitch Daniels and the unrated Mike Pence, as well as being central to the various Republican congressional plans to submarine the Affordable Care Act, which she now is empowered to do in several different ways. She also ran a healthcare consultancy through which she worked with clients like Kentucky’s Tea Party nightmare of a Governor, Matt Bevin. Now, she serves as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As Vann Newkirk, Jr. pointed out in The Atlantic, Verma’s primary goal seems to be “improving” Medicaid programs by making them as stingy and inconvenient as possible. She’s very big on work requirements for Medicaid, for example, and, in Ohio, her firm fashioned a plan that got tough on deadbeat sick people.

Verma’s consultancy was also involved in a failed attempt in Ohio to bar Medicaid recipients from coverage until they’d paid premium arrears, and in the use of an 1115 Medicaid waiver in Kentucky to create a “work activity” requirement for the program. That waiver is still under consideration by CMS, and will be under her own review should she become administrator.

So far, Verma and the administration* have not decided to impose work requirements for Medicare, too, but that’s probably coming. Out of that bed, Grandma, Walmart needs greeters. If you can’t talk, you can wave.

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Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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