WASHINGTON – (ENEWSPF)—January 19, 2018. U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and 29 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric Hargan expressing serious concern with recent administrative actions and calling into question the Trump Administration’s decision to approve state Medicaid waivers that would eliminate health coverage for tens of thousands of Americans. Last week, Governor Bruce Rauner expressed support for these new federal rules that would make it easier for states to impose onerous work requirements and red tape in order for people to receive Medicaid, which could jeopardize health care access and harm Illinoisans who are disabled, sick, caring for children or elderly parents, working part-time jobs, or struggling with an opioid addiction.
“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,” the senators wrote. “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 letter comes after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance last week signaling to states that the agency would approve Medicaid Section 1115 waivers that impose work requirements on otherwise eligible individuals. CMS subsequently approved Kentucky’s 1115 Medicaid waiver, which, in addition to work requirements, includes such harmful components as lockout periods, onerous reporting requirements, and the elimination of retroactive coverage that will harm the health of low-income individuals without leading to a significant increase in employment. In its own proposal, Kentucky projected that 95,000 people in the state would lose their Medicaid health coverage.
This is not the first time that the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans have sought to dismantle the Medicaid program—which provides health care to nearly 70 million Americans nationwide – one in five people in the U.S. – including more than three million Illinoisans. The failed Republican Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bills would have slashed funding for state Medicaid programs—harming hospitals nationwide (especially rural hospitals) and throwing millions of Americans off their health care. According to the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, the Republican ACA repeal bills would have resulted in up to 95,000 job losses in Illinois alone.
The letter, led by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), was also signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Menéndez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The full letter can be found here