House Dems warn against Medicaid lifetime limits

House Dems warn against Medicaid lifetime limits
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee warned the Trump administration not to approve requests from states that want to put a lifetime cap on how long people can be enrolled in the Medicaid program.

In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the lawmakers said lifetime limits would harm patients and the agency doesn’t even have the statutory authority to approve them.

“Lifetime limits or caps on coverage would be an unspeakably cruel attack on Americans struggling to make ends meet,” the Democrats, led by Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyMiddle class deserves affordable clean energy Budowsky: End the DNC malpractice Medicaid is crucial to seniors and awareness is crucial to the program's survival MORE III (Mass.), wrote. “We ask that you swiftly make clear that any such proposals will be rejected.”

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No state has ever put a limit on how long a person can receive Medicaid benefits. But given that the Trump administration has already shown a willingness to approve conservative policies like work requirements, premiums and lockout periods for Medicaid, many experts and advocates think lifetime limits could also win approval.

Critics of lifetime limits say they would fundamentally shift Medicaid from a health-care safety net program for the poor and sick to a welfare program.

To date, five states — Maine, Arizona, Utah, Wisconsin and Kansas — have applied for waivers from the Health and Human Services Department to put a cap on how long Medicaid beneficiaries can receive health benefits.

The lifetime cap proposals reflect the administration’s view that only the “able-bodied” will be impacted. In all the requests, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities would be exempt from coverage limits.

The agency doesn’t comment on outstanding waiver requests, but the Democrats said they were concerned that Azar has yet to take a stance against the policy.