Medicaid Funds Still Not Available for Coronavirus Pandemic

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Should states be allowed to use Medicaid to respond more flexibly to the coronavirus pandemic? Of course they should. But they can’t:

Despite mounting pleas from California and other states, the Trump administration isn’t allowing states to use Medicaid more freely to respond to the coronavirus crisis by expanding medical services. In previous emergencies, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the H1N1 flu outbreak, both Republican and Democratic administrations loosened Medicaid rules to empower states to meet surging needs.

….One reason federal health officials have not acted appears to be President Trump’s reluctance to declare a national emergency. That’s a key step that would clear the way for states to get Medicaid waivers to more nimbly tackle coronavirus, but it would conflict with Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic.

Trump has been dithering over this for at least the past few days. This is from Wednesday:

The administration is “not comfortable with the optics of national emergency” because of how it might impact Wall Street, tourism and air travel, a former Department of Homeland Security official said. “That’s a big deal to Wall Street, a big deal worldwide,” the former official said. “It would instill fear in the general public.”

At this point, I doubt that an emergency declaration would spook either Wall Street or the rest of the world. We already know coronavirus is a big deal. Donald Trump is the only one who’s trying to pretend otherwise.

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