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Trump plots to punish poor people like no other president in history ever has

Republicans have failed, time and time again, to cut Medicaid. It remains highly popular, with voters in Maine decisively choosing to expand it last week, and so far public opposition has thwarted any legislation to roll it back. But according to the Hill, the Trump administration is now planning to unilaterally let Republican governors take […]

By Matthew Chapman - November 17, 2017
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Donald Trump

Republicans have failed, time and time again, to cut Medicaid. It remains highly popular, with voters in Maine decisively choosing to expand it last week, and so far public opposition has thwarted any legislation to roll it back.

But according to the Hill, the Trump administration is now planning to unilaterally let Republican governors take a sledgehammer to Medicaid for millions of people, by imposing “work requirements” to obtain coverage — and they have made their motives perfectly clear.

In the coming months, the Trump administration could approve waivers allowing eight states to implement the work requirements: Arkansas, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin. All but three of the states accepted ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

The Obama administration rejected similar waiver requests, but “those days are over,” according to Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Verma has said that arguments against the work requirements are “a tragic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations consistently espoused by the prior administration.”

This would be the first time a president has ever allowed a state to waive Medicaid funding requirements for the express purpose of covering fewer people — a heartless and dangerous precedent.

The vast majority of people on Medicaid — 78 percent — live in working households, and 59 percent are working themselves, but don’t have access to insurance through their employer. Most of those who are not working are disabled, pregnant, or taking care of children.

Work requirements would cruelly strip health care from a small subset of people who Republicans believe “should” be working but are not — many of whom are looking for a job but hampered by structural barriers to employment.

“Medicaid coverage is not something that should be earned,” Robert Doherty, senior vice president at the American College of Physicians, told Kaiser Health News. “Medicaid is not a welfare program. It is a health care entitlement program, and anyone who meets the requirements should be able to have coverage.”

Verma and other Trump officials want to let GOP governors impose work requirements to play to callous — and often racially charged — stereotypes of the poor sitting around getting paid by welfare agencies to do nothing. This is evidenced by Trump’s director of outreach for the Department of Homeland Security, Rev. Jamie Johnson, who once said cities are “slums” because Black people are prone to “laziness, drug use and promiscuity.”

By covering low-income families, Medicaid ensures they have the health security to work steady jobs — so shutting out the unemployed is a cruel farce that runs contrary to the program’s mission.

Trump and his loyalists seem determined to do everything within their power to wreck health care for the American people — and then blame those people for their own suffering. Thankfully, most Americans aren’t on board with their heartless scheme.


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