The latest front in the Biden administration’s crusade to bypass the congressional appropriations process and expand the welfare state comes in the form of the medicalization of everyday life through Medicaid coverage of “health-related social needs.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently approved three section 1115 demonstration initiatives that allow Oregon, Massachusetts and Arizona to use Medicaid funds to pay nonmedical expenses such as housing supports (rent, relocation expenses, furniture), meals, air conditioning and air purifiers “during climate emergencies” and transportation services.
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure argues such measures are needed “to address the root social causes of health concerns, like lack of access to nutritious food and housing insecurity.”
This is an unnecessary and potentially enormous expansion of Medicaid, the government-funded health program for low-income families, children and the disabled — and, in Medicaid expansion states, low-income adults. Medicaid covers roughly one in four Americans. It is financed partly by the federal government (about two-thirds on average) and partly by the individual states. States have leeway in spending their portion, but strict rules limit how they can use the federal chunk.