Opinion

Rogue Swamp Creatures Are Giving Biden a Healthcare Advantage

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Posted: Jul 25, 2020 12:01 AM
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Rogue Swamp Creatures Are Giving Biden a Healthcare Advantage

Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

A new poll released on July 22 from The Hill-Harris X has revealed what the American people have already known for months: registered voters believe that health care “is the most important issue facing the nation today.” Health care has always been a critical issue among the electorate, but the emergence of COVID-19 has elevated it to new heights. Unfortunately, other polls show that the new importance the public has placed on health care presents bad news for President Trump. 61percent of undecided voters would support Biden if they had to choose today, partly because they believe he is “stronger” on healthcare. This polling problem is fixable, but the administration must understand the root causes and respond accordingly. 

Trump’s health care problem doesn’t have anything to do with the public’s general dislike of his free-market politics. Undecided voters don’t care about ideology; they care about the implementation of tangible solutions. And while the president has proposed many good ideas, from drug pricing reform to replacing Obamacare, rogue officials have prevented the execution of many of them. This obstruction has created an “all talk, no action” feeling in the hearts and minds of voters that has influenced their plans for November.
 
A large portion of the damage to the president’s agenda has come from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). But it’s not the whole department – not by a long shot. While individuals like HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan continue working tirelessly to advance the president’s healthcare agenda, there’s others like Seema Verma, who runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) within the department, that continue undermining it.
 
Verma has been in the news over the last week because of a 70-page inspector general investigation, which found that she broke the law by directing over $5 million of taxpayer money to politically connected outside consultants. The list of individuals that received payment from the agency included a Never Trump staffer that the White House blocked in the hiring process. 

In the past, Democrats have pounced on Verma’s  questionable commitment to ethics, drumming up media headlines that have harmed the administration’s reputation. But the allegations of cronyism that Verma has created for the Trump White House are the least damaging of what she’s done to the administration politically. Harmful above all else is how she has continually undermined its health care agenda and pushed politically unpopular proposals instead.  

When the administration organized an initiative to lower drug costs, Verma torpedoed the effort. She also tried to ensure that Obamacare reform met the same fate by breaking ranks with senior administration officials to propose a $1 trillion plan that most officials knew was dead on arrival.  


Rather than help the administration with its efforts to lower health care costs and increase consumer choice, Verma has been dead set on moving forward with a new anti-America First order, called the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR). Both sides of the aisle vehemently oppose it because they believe that it will reduce consumers’ health care access and increase taxes on state residents at the worst possible time. And yet, with election day just over 100 days away, Verma continues to move full speed ahead in advancing this new rule that’s detested by voters across the country. 

She claims the purpose of MFAR is to lower the cost of  Medicaid – the government healthcare program created to assist low-income Americans. But rather than do so in a responsible, fiscally conservative way, like block-granting to limit federal subsidies, Verma’s rule would steamroll states’ rights in favor of more federal control. It would allow the same bureaucrats that enforce Obamacare at her department to micromanage states’ healthcare budgets, even banning some of their funding techniques outright.
 
The entire Texas congressional delegation, including conservative stalwarts like Dan Crenshaw and Kevin Brady, opposed the changes in a rare moment of unity. They wrote, “the feedback provided to our offices indicates that state and local governments would need to increase taxes to replace the billions of dollars lost, and would result in a reduction of the state’s capacity to provide essential health care services.” It’s never a good look when both Republicans and Democrats tell an administration that its rulemaking will increase taxes and reduce healthcare capabilities during the height of a pandemic that’s at the top of everyone’s mind. And with Democrat nominee Joe Biden now wisely using MFAR as a weapon for November, calling out MFAR in "The Biden Plan to Combat Coronavirus” and highlighting the "bipartisan efforts" to stop it, it’s clear that Verma’s obstinance is already damaging the president politically. 

If the president wants to win his re-election in November, he'll need his administrators to create policies that meet his goals and are popular. Verma has proven herself to be disinterested in Trump's agenda, focusing on her own ideas and image instead. The time for waiting is long past. It's time for Trump to repeal and replace Seema Verma. 

Ashley Herzog is a freelance health care writer for the Heartland Institute.