WASHINGTON – House Democrats pushed through a resolution Thursday rebuking President Donald Trump’s initiative to give states leeway to limit Medicaid benefits for some low-income recipients.
The resolution, which passed 223-190, attacks an initiative by the Trump administration that would allow states to cap federal funding and cut coverage and benefits for some poor adults. The Healthy Adult Opportunity initiative, announced Jan. 30 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, encourages states to apply for a waiver converting federal funding for certain Medicaid recipients into block grants and exempting states from many provisions.
Democrats asserted the initiative would take away health care for millions of Americans, particularly those who gained health care under the Affordable Care Act and characterized the administration’s guidance as illegal.
“This policy would rip away health care for the most vulnerable of our neighbors,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Republicans pointed out the initiative left it to states’ discretion whether to apply for the waiver and criticized Democrats for forcing the resolution to the floor without a committee hearing.
They charged the resolution, which is nonbinding, was little more than an attempt to grab media attention.
“It’ll never go to the Senate. It’ll never go to the president. It’s a publicity stunt,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.
Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois, Joe Kennedy of Massachussets and Raul Ruiz of California argued the initiative was the latest effort by the Trump administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, with Kennedy pointing to unsuccessful efforts by Republicans to repeal the Act in 2017 when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress.
And while most Republicans ignored the charge, Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., said the Affordable Care Act had strained his state’s resources and praised the president for providing a “common sense option” that would not affect children or the disabled.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said block grants like those offered in the waivers would give states the ability to “innovate” more efficient ways to provide health care to their citizens, and Walden said it would encourage states that had not yet expanded Medicaid coverage to citizens affected by the initiative to do so.
Rep. Marc Veasey, R-Texas, called block grants “a hee-hee ha-ha joke.”
Walden said the Democrats could have held hearings on the health care issue instead of focusing on a resolution to rebuke the president. He cited several bipartisan efforts by the House Committee on Commerce and Energy, on which he and several of the Democrats present served.
“If we’d had this discussion in the committee we love so much, maybe we’d have a better outcome here,” Walden said.