The Trump administration unveiled a plan to slash massive chunks from public health programs including Medicaid as part of their budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year this week, and during a subsequent Congressional hearing this Tuesday, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) came down hard on Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar for his defense of the plan.
Part of the planned cut includes the imposition of a work requirement for recipients alongside the transformation of the program from one that pays up as needed to one hinging on lump sum payments to states.
Kennedy asked Azar:
‘If your mission is to try and make sure that everybody gets access to healthcare in this country, can you point me to one study that says that work requirements make people healthier? One?’
Azar had nothing, simply offering a “belief” that as Kennedy pointed out, he wanted to use to direct policy plans affecting the very lives of millions of people across the United States.
As the Health and Human Services Secretary put it:
‘We believe that individuals who have employment have healthier outcomes. I don’t have the data to cite; we’d use that in litigation.’
‘Sir, you run an agency responsible for the healthcare of millions of Americans. Healthier people working does not mean work requirements make people healthier. I assume you understand that.’
At that point, Azar cut in with some gripe about Obama — seriously. Kennedy cut him off and repeated his question about the Secretary’s understanding of the distinction between the claim of work requirements serving as a boon to people’s health and people who happen to be healthy for the moment holding down a job, but Azar had no data to offer. He simply said his team would have to provide the information at a later time if it exists.
Watch the moment:
This is GREAT:
Rep. Joe Kennedy Asked Secretary Alex Azar to give him “one study that says Medicaid work requirements make people healthier.”
Secretary Alex Azar Didn’t have any pic.twitter.com/lqwNvufmbZ
— PoliticsVideoChannel (@politvidchannel) March 12, 2019
The plan to enact a national work requirement for Medicaid follows the Trump administration letting states institute a similar standard on a case-by-case basis. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have issued waivers allowing states to impose a work requirement in contrast with national legislation in Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.
Besides the work requirement and the transformation to a block grant system, the Trump administration proposes eliminating the Medicaid expansion allowed for under the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. The changes amount to well over $700 billion getting stripped from the program. That move would put large swaths of Americans’ healthcare on the line — in states where the Medicaid expansion has been implemented, the portion of uninsured individuals has fallen by more than 6 percent.
The plan is just that — a plan, and Congress has the final say in the actual budget for the next fiscal year. Democrats have of course made no indication that they are keen on following through with essentially any of the Trump administration’s plans.
The stage could be set for another shutdown-inducing showdown this fall if the president again refuses to approve any government funding without some of his key proposals like well over $8 billion for a southern border wall included.
Featured Image via screenshot from the video