Capitol Correspondence - 04.01.19

Senator Demands HHS Transparency on Medicaid Block Grant Proposals

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On March 26, U.S. Senator Casey (D-PA) wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar stating the importance of Medicaid and demanding more information more information on Administration proposals to block grant Medicaid. These proposals are included in the HHS portion of the President’s 2020 budget proposal. While it is important to note that the President’s proposal does not have the force of law, as the Constitution grants Congress the power of the purse, policy stakeholders have noted the Administration’s commitment to reforming Medicaid. As such, the budget is an important guiding document on what actions and policies HHS and the Administration might pursue outside of Congress.

Senator Casey’s letter expresses displeasure at the Administration’s proposal, referring to Congress explicitly rejecting proposals to block grant or cap Medicaid. He brings up the right of individuals who depend on the program to be a part of discussions that would radically change the program, and states that “any waiver application must also remain true to the statutory requirements and obligations of the program.” Citing the need for transparency, the Senator demanded that by April 12, HHS provide his office with:

  • Internal HHS documents on the proposal to block grant or cap Medicaid;
  • Documents HHS has shared with federal, state and local governments on the proposal to block grant or cap Medicaid;
  • Documents HHS received from federal, state and local entities on the proposal to block grant or cap Medicaid;
  • Any planning documents developed by or given to HHS on this proposal;
  • Any HHS analyses on the effect this proposal may have on “the care or coverage of low income individuals, children, seniors and people with disabilities.”

In addition to Senator Casey’s letter: the U.S. House of Representatives has also brought up Medicaid cuts in its interactions with the Administration. As reported by Politico Pro, during the House Budget Committee’s hearing “Democratic lawmakers [on March 26] grilled HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan over the White House proposals for multi-billion dollar cuts to cancer research, international aid and Medicaid as well as a court filing that supports the total elimination of the Affordable Care Act. […] Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said the budget’s proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid violated President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.”

ANCOR will keep members informed as this discussion evolves.