With congressional leadership expected to imminently release the text of omnibus government funding legislation, Politico revealed Monday that Democrats are preparing to join with Republicans who have demanded an end to Medicaid policies enacted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of pandemic relief legislation passed in 2020, Congress boosted Medicaid funding to states but imposed a “continuous coverage” requirement, barring them from cutting off most enrollees from the government healthcare program until after the public health emergency (PHE) officially ends.
Citing four unnamed sources familiar with talks, Politico reported that while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office expects the PHE to expire next July, “lawmakers have struck an agreement to move the end of its Medicaid rules up to April 1, which would allow states to begin removing people from the rolls who no longer qualify, usually
As Common Dreams has reported amid mounting calls from Republicans for President Joe Biden to end the PHE, rolling back the pandemic-era healthcare policies could cause millions of people to lose coverage—despite fears of high cases of Covid-19 and other viruses going into the winter holidays.
“We are decoupling the Medicaid continuous eligibility policy from the public health emergency. We are not ending the PHE,” a Capitol Hill source close to the negotiations told Politico. “We’re providing certainty to states and giving them a gradual stream of funding and guardrail requirements that protect people. This is something both Democratic and Republican states asked for so that the 90 million people enrolled in Medicaid can be given certainty and protected during this massive undertaking.”
According to the news outlet:
Under the tentative deal, much of the money saved would go to two Medicaid policies Democrats have long sought: a year of postpartum coverage for low-income moms in states that don’t already offer it and a year of continuous coverage provisions for children at risk of losing health insurance
With Republicans set to take control of [the] House in January, Democrats see the move as the best and possibly last chance to fund some of their top health priorities, including policies that address the country’s worsening rates of maternal mortality that were left out of other packages passed this year.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not address the potential provision while speaking about the package on the chamber’s floor Monday.
“Appropriators are racing around the clock to finish the last major item on our to-do list for 2022: an omnibus package that will keep the government funded into next fall,” he said in part. “We all know the omnibus will be the best way to ensure that our kids, our veterans, our small businesses, and our military continue to have full access to vital services and programs they depend on. It’s not going to be everything anybody wants, that’s for sure, but it’s far preferable to a [continuing resolution], which will leave the country high and dry, and it’s certainly preferable to a government shutdown.”
The pending deal on Medicaid drew criticism from some policy experts and progressives.
“Umm. Why would we do that?” organizer Melissa Byrne tweeted in response to the reporting. “Keep the Medicaid rules until we get Medicare for All.”
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Jessica Corbett is a Common Dreams staff writer.