Government & Politics

Trump official rejects lifetime limit on Kansas Medicaid as dangerous to ‘safety net’

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,  said the Trump administration will reject Kansas' request to limit some people to three years of Medicaid coverage in a lifetime.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the Trump administration will reject Kansas' request to limit some people to three years of Medicaid coverage in a lifetime. Bloomberg

Speaking to a national hospital group Monday, a Trump administration official said her agency will reject Kansas’ request to limit some people to three years of Medicaid coverage in a lifetime.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the American Hospital Association that her agency is open to many new ideas about reforming Medicaid but is determined to make sure it “remains a safety net for those that need it most.”

“To this end, we have determined that we will not approve Kansas’ recent request to place a lifetime limit on Medicaid benefits for some beneficiaries,” Verma said. “We seek to create a pathway out of poverty, but we also understand that people’s circumstances change, and we must ensure that our programs are sustainable and available to them when they need and qualify for them.”

After President Donald Trump took office, he and his appointees signaled a willingness to give states more flexibility in how they run their Medicaid programs, which are funded through a combination of state and federal dollars. The Kansas proposal is the first the administration has rejected.

Kansas was one of five states that requested lifetime limits. The otherswere Maine, Arizona, Utah and Wisconsin — all also led by Republican governors.

Democrats opposed the idea, and some said they doubted it was legal.

The Kansas proposal would have imposed the three-year limit only on Medicaid recipients deemed able to work. It would have applied to about 12,000 extremely low-income parents who make up a small fraction of the 400,000-plus total Kansans who receive Medicaid.

In Kansas, Medicaid is a managed care program called KanCare with strict income limits to qualify. Almost all the beneficiaries are children, the elderly, pregnant women or people with disabilities.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer released a statement Monday saying his office had received a letter from Verma rejecting the Kansas proposal, but he said the administration had already announced during an April 23 legislative hearing that it was withdrawing the proposal.

He said his administration decided to drop the request for lifetime limits after officials in Verma’s agency “indicated they would be unable to approve the measure.”

Colyer said he’s pleased the Trump administration is still allowing the state to go forward with a proposal to impose a work requirement on the 12,000 Medicaid recipients in question.

“This important provision will help improve outcomes and ensure that Kansans are empowered to achieved self-sufficiency,” Colyer said in a statement.

Before adjourning for the session last week, the Kansas Legislature passed a budget that prevents the governor from implementing a Medicaid work requirement without legislative approval.

Sheldon Weisgrau, interim executive director of the Alliance for Healthy Kansans, said the Trump administration was right to reject lifetime limits on Medicaid coverage. The alliance is a group of health care providers and disability organizations lobbying for expanding Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Kansans.

“Patients can now be assured that an arbitrary, bureaucratic time limit would not end their health care coverage in the middle of a critical course of treatment,” Weisgrau said in a statement. “Patients’ needs change throughout their lives and the programs they depend on should have the flexibility to meet these changing needs.”

  Comments