In one of his first actions as Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar traveled to Indianapolis to announce the Trump administration’s approval of Indiana’s plan to cut Medicaid coverage by making it harder, not easier, for Hoosiers with lower-incomes to access health care. About 25,000 Hoosiers have already lost their access to health care because of the state’s current efforts to eliminate families’ Medicaid coverage, and today’s announcement is expected to lead to tens of thousands more Hoosiers losing their care. It’s no surprise that Trump sent Azar to do his bidding given that Azar, a longtime pharmaceutical top executive, has given every indication that he will put the interests of corporate executives over the needs of the American people.
Despite promising that drug prices are “going to come rocketing down,” Trump nominated Azar, who has a long history of opposing policies that encourage competitive drug pricing and reining in pharmaceutical companies’ exorbitant profits.
Politico: “On drug pricing, Azar said ‘a vigorous and profitable drug industry is not a problem to be solved’ Azar has acknowledged that high drug prices are a problem for patients, but past statements suggest he'll do little to rein in the industry — even though Trump has frequently railed against drug companies and tweeted Monday that Azar will be a ‘star’ for lower drug prices.”
Azar supports Trump’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.
Talking Points Memo: “Azar first defended Trump’s decision to abruptly cut off cost-sharing reduction payment to insurance companies after funding them for nine months, a decision that raised premiums significantly in the individual market. He said simply: ‘Congress had not appropriated the money.’”
About 25,000 Hoosiers lost Medicaid coverage after the state began requiring Medicaid patients to pay a monthly premium under then-Governor Mike Pence’s direction.
Kaiser Health News: “Indiana in 2015 implemented some of the most radical changes seen to the state-federal program that covers nearly 1 in 4 poor Americans — including charging some adults a monthly premium and locking out some of those who don’t pay for six months … About 25,000 adults were disenrolled from the program between its start in 2015 and October 2017 for failure to pay their premiums, according to state reports.”
Economists have found no evidence that Indiana’s strategy is saving the state money.
Kaiser Health News: “Kosali Simon, an economist at Indiana University, said there are many unanswered questions about the effect of the state’s Medicaid expansion, such as whether the added premiums make enrollees better health shoppers. And there is no evidence the Indiana strategy is more cost-efficient than traditional Medicaid, she said.”
The majority of adults who do rely on Medicaid are working, many in jobs that do not provide health insurance or pay low wages. In Indiana, 79% of Medicaid enrollees are in working families.
Medicaid itself already supports and encourages work by making sure that Americans can cover their families’ medical bills while they search for employment or higher-paying jobs.
Kaiser Health News: “For example, individuals have reported that receiving medication for conditions like asthma or rheumatoid arthritis through Medicaid is critical in supporting their ability to work.”
Research shows that Medicaid enrollment falls when states make their programs more complicated by imposing obstacles such as work requirements.
The Upshot: “But a large body of social science suggests that the mere requirement of documenting work hours is likely to cause many eligible people to lose coverage, too … There is also a lot of research about the Medicaid program, specifically, that shows that sign-ups fall when states make their program more complicated.”