Obama, Trump Medicaid heads agree: Expansion requests will continue despite White House's concerns

Andy Slavitt
Former CMS Administrator Any Slavitt says efforts to expand Medicaid will continue despite the Trump administrations disapproval. (American Osteopathic Association)

A former Medicaid director under President Obama says momentum for Medicaid expansion is gaining traction, while the current Trump-appointed administrator acknowledged the agency is bound by law to review state proposals.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, said last week that the agency will continue to accept Medicaid expansion applications, even when the Trump administration's ardent disapproval clashes with state proposals.

"If a state files a state plan amendment, by law there is a certain period of time that we have to respond to that, and those are set in law," Verma said during an interview with reporters, as reported by the Washington Examiner

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Verma's comment follows a recent statement by Mick Mulvaney, director at the Office of Management and Budget, who called the Medicaid program "unsustainable" and said expansion creates a "bias in favor of able-bodied adults at the expense of those who truly need Medicaid services."

The president's 2019 proposed budget also called for $1.4 trillion in cuts to the Medicaid program. 

At the same time, Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the CMS under President Barack Obama, says that while Trump and Congress are trying to slash Medicaid, Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of efforts to expand the program.

RELATED: Survey shows wide eligibility gap between states that expanded Medicaid and those that didn’t

"[Republicans'] policies are so out of line with public thinking that the more they push them, the higher the likelihood that they put the country on an inevitable path to Medicaid, Medicare or some other health care plan that is ubiquitous and available to all," Slavitt, the board chairman of the advocacy group United States of Care wrote in an op-ed in USA Today with Jonathan Schleifer is executive director of The Fairness Project. 

The authors cited a Kaiser poll that found that 84% of Americans want to continue the ACA's Medicaid expansion to people below 138% of the poverty line.  

RELATED: Virginia edges closer to Medicaid expansion, with some Republicans on board

Slavitt said that momentum is growing for additional states to expand Medicaid via ballot initiative, including Nebraska and Montana, traditionally red states won by Trump. Virginia, a purple state with a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, is also currently debating expanding the program. 

"All this momentum shows that when under threat, Americans act not just to protect their rights, but go further," Slavitt said.