It is never fun to oppose a president of your own party. However, it is often necessary to prevent your side from making mistakes they will regret. And Democratic leadership is badly needed now to help save the Biden administration from making a major mistake that would harm millions of vulnerable Americans who rely on Medicaid for their health care.
Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services
In 2020, I joined fellow Republicans writing to President Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services to voice our opposition to a proposed Medicaid tax liability regulation. We wrote that the rule could result in reductions in total funding of between $37 billion and $49 billion annually, including a 12.8% to 16.9% cut in total hospital program payments, empowering federal bureaucrats to micromanage state administration of Medicaid from Washington, DC
At the time, our concerns were echoed by a large chorus of Democratic leaders, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In a letter with 26 of his fellow Democrats, then-Sen. Harris called the rules not only dangerous but also devastating for vulnerable low-income patients. Biden’s presidential campaign put on his website that he would oppose it. The bipartisan outcry has extended to the nations’ governors, who have warned that states may not be able to adequately fund their Medicaid programs.
The Trump Administration has Backtracked on the Proposed Medicaid Rules
Following this strong opposition, the Trump administration wisely forced federal bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw the plan.
Millions of people will lose their Medicaid “lifeline”:For my father, Medicaid means regaining agency and autonomy. For my mother our survival.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last we heard about the cuts. In February, Bidens CMS issued a federal bulletin re-establishing the regulations. In April, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued CMS, arguing it doesn’t have the authority to enact these rules. However, since then, the agency has doubled down, incorporating the requirements into new rules proposed in May.
President Biden as we Approach the Upcoming Election
Enacting severe cuts in Medicaid would not only be a disaster for vulnerable patients across America. It would also be politically damaging to President Biden as we approach the upcoming election, especially in light of his previous statements on the matter.
The president has launched constant attacks on Republicans, accusing them of trying to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Until his administration sends these proposed regulations to the dustbin, he is throwing stones at a glass house.
Democratic members of the Texas and Florida congressional delegations have urged the Biden administration to reverse course. “A policy change of this significance threatens not only our home state’s most vulnerable citizens but also Medicaid recipients across the country,” Texas Democrats wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
The United States has a shortage of doctors. Congress can help us by expanding our medical workforce.
Democratic Leaders have been Silent on Biden’s Medicaid plan
But so far we’ve heard the crickets from national Democratic leaders who spoke out against the regulations when they were proposed under Trump’s watch.
Members of the federal bureaucracy often work to advance their own agenda. This is true regardless of which party the president is from. Party leaders’ job in these cases is not just to be yesmen to federal bureaucrats. It’s considering what’s in the best interests of their constituents, their party, their president, and our country, and then speaking up accordingly.
We were lucky to have that relationship with the Trump administration, and they answered our call on this and did the right thing. Whether Democratic leaders are willing to do the same remains to be seen.
Tom Reed is a former Republican congressman from New York.
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