CMS’s New Criteria for State Changes to Medicaid will Deny Coverage to Hundreds of Thousands of Americans

Washington, D.C. — The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today new criteria for considering requests from states to make changes to their Medicaid programs, dropping the previous requirement that such changes must “increase and strengthen” health coverage for low-income Americans and instead encouraging proposals that place new hurdles to coverage like drug tests and work requirements. CMS Administrator Seema Verma, whose agency’s mission is to help Americans access health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace, said in a statement that the goal of covering more people is a “hollow victory of numbers.” This, despite the fact that on its own website homepage CMS promotes that it’s efforts cover 100 million Americans.

Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse blasted the changes and Verma’s offensive comparison of people gaining access to health care with “hollow” “numbers.”

“The Trump Administration has once again shown that it will stop at nothing in its zeal to sabotage American health care even if it means harming hundreds of thousands of people and resorting to offensive, right-wing stereotypes about low-income Americans in the process,” said Woodhouse. “CMS is supposed to help people get health coverage, but today it offensively called coverage goals a ‘hollow victory of numbers,’ an Orwellian statement from the agency charged with administering Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace. These changes are shameful, harmful and wreak of the kind of right-wing rhetoric and policy choices that for decades have demeaned and stereotyped people who need health care but can’t afford it. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose coverage as a result of these changes — not because they don’t need, deserve or qualify, but because Donald Trump and Republicans want a talking point for their right-wing base. They should be ashamed.”

These changes are the opposite of the message Americans sent to Congress in defeating one effort after another to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was to improve and expand coverage rather than repeal it. Republican efforts to slash Medicaid and end Medicaid expansion were especially unpopular as countless Americans shared stories of how important access to Medicaid was to them and their families.