Trump officials abruptly pull back from decision on Medicaid lifetime limits

Trump officials abruptly pull back from decision on Medicaid lifetime limits
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The Trump administration planned to announce Tuesday that it was rejecting Kansas’s request to impose a three-year lifetime limit on Medicaid benefits, but canceled the announcement at the last minute due to internal administration disagreements, sources say.

The rejection of Kansas’s request would be significant, in that the Trump administration would be drawing the line against major new restrictions on the health insurance program for the poor.

The administration has already approved work requirements in Medicaid, a controversial step on its own. But if the administration turned down Kansas, it would be rejecting efforts to go beyond that and limit Medicaid benefits to three years, after which people would be dropped from the program forever.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma was planning to make the announcement at a media availability on Tuesday afternoon, but it was called off at the last minute. The media availability went on as scheduled, but no news was announced.

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An administration official said the reason for the last-minute cancellation of the announcement was an internal disagreement within the administration on the decision.

Spokesmen for CMS and for Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Democrats have been pressuring the administration to reject state requests to impose lifetime limits.

“Lifetime limits or caps on coverage would be an unspeakably cruel attack on Americans struggling to make ends meet,” wrote all of the Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in March.

There is also a serious question as to whether allowing lifetime limits would be legal under the current Medicaid statute.

Verma did not end up speaking in detail about Kansas or lifetime limits at the media availability on Tuesday, but she did hint at her concerns with lifetime limits, saying life can be unpredictable and people could lose job-based insurance down the road.

“We're trying to think about all of the nuances here,” Verma told reporters, speaking in general about lifetime limit proposals. “We understand that people's circumstances change over time and that they may actually get into a job and then maybe something happens in a few years.”