Tucson, Ariz.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva sent a letter joined by 41 other Members of Congress June 27 to federal health officials urging vigilant enforcement of a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that protects eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Arizona is currently seeking numerous waivers to cut the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state Medicaid program.
If granted, the Arizona waivers could set a precedent for other states pursuing similar steps. The letter to Secretary of Health and Human (HHS) Services Kathleen Sebeliusand Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services Administrator Don Berwick stresses that Congress, in passing the ACA, did not intend for states to make it more difficult to access Medicaid benefits.
As the Arizona Republic reported earlier this week:
The Grijalva letter explains that the ACA allows states to be exempted from the MOE provision only if:
1) the state submits a certification to the HHS Secretary that it has a budget deficit;
2) the waived cuts apply to adults who are not eligible for coverage on the basis of pregnancy or disability; and
3) the waived cuts apply to people with incomes above 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Arizonaalready does not cover most individuals above 100 percent of the federal poverty level, which means the currently proposed cuts violate the third waiver prerequisite. A May 5 letter to HHS Director for Medicaid and State Operations Cindy Mann from Grijalva and Rep. Ed Pastor raised this and other issues, pointing out that freezing enrollment would effectively eliminate Medicaid services to hundreds of thousands of people statewide.
“In good times and bad, working and middle class Americans should be able to count on health care for their families and dignity in old age,” the June 27 letter says. “The MOE requirement ensures the continued success of these programs and was written deliberately and explicitly to protect our vulnerable, disabled, children and senior citizens. A waiver from the MOE should only be granted if the nonapplication requirements are met.”
According to an April 26 poll from First Focus, Americans oppose the House majority’s proposed cuts to Medicaid by a 70-27 margin. They oppose cuts to CHIP by a similar 73-23 percent margin, with 51 percent strongly opposed.