This morning, as news breaks that almost 12 million people enrolled through the Marketplaces despite Republican sabotage, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will meet with President Trump to discuss the Administration’s path forward. Will they continue their unpopular, partisan war on our care, or listen to the American people, who want an end to sabotage and repeal?
Here are three questions Secretary Azar must answer following his meeting with the President:
1. Will the Trump Administration Stop its War on Medicaid?
Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced it might allow states to impose lifetime limits for people with Medicaid, a direct affront to Medicaid’s mission. This proposal puts care for roughly 1 in 5 Americans, or 77 million people, in danger most of whom are seniors living in nursing homes or receive other long-term care, children, and people with disabilities. The reality is the majority of Americans with Medicaid coverage live in working households, and now the Trump Administration is considering punishing people just because their employer doesn’t offer insurance or because they got sick or have a disability and lost their job. The Affordable Care Act stopped insurance companies from imposing dollar lifetime limits on coverage, and as a result, 105 million Americans are now free from arbitrary limits on care. But the Trump Administration wants to take us back to the days of lifetime coverage caps, and they’re targeting our most vulnerable citizens as guinea pigs. The Administration has also just started allowing states to impose onerous work requirements for people with Medicaid, which will not help people find or keep a job, but will just take away their health care.
These are the latest salvos in their war on Medicaid. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a health repeal bill that cut Medicaid by $839 billion, or 25 percent, and converted the program into a “per capita cap”, thus ending the guaranteed coverage for everyone who has it.
2. Will the Trump Administration Stop Pushing Junk Health Care Plans that Roll Back Key Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions?
The Trump Administration is taking steps to gut key protections and expose people to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions through their so-called “association health plans” and short-term plans. These efforts allow insurance companies to once again sell plans that do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. These skimpy plans could refuse to cover essential health benefits such as cancer treatments, maternity care, and addiction treatment, forcing people who actually want or need comprehensive coverage or have a pre-existing condition to pay more.
3. Will the Administration Start Walking the Walk on Fighting the Opioid Crisis?
Yesterday, Politico reported that White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway was “quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day.” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said, “I haven’t talked to Kellyanne at all and I’m from the worst state for this…I’m uncertain of her role.”
To date, the Administration has completely failed to address the nation’s raging opioid crisis. The window-dressing public health emergency declaration the President made freed up a fund worth only $57,000, falling pathetically short of the billions that experts say are desperately needed to combat the crisis. The House repeal bill that President Trump supported would make the opioid crisis worse by eliminating coverage requirements for mental health and addiction treatment, and through drastic Medicaid cuts that put states on the hook for the huge cost of dealing with the epidemic. The Trump Administration has relentlessly attacked and sabotaged Medicaid, which helps people with opioid addiction receive care, paying for one-fifth of all substance abuse treatment nationwide. And, the Trump Administration proposed a 95% cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is charged with coordinating the federal response to the nation’s raging opioid crisis – for the second year in a row.