Days after the Trump administration finalized a proposal that will kick hundreds of thousands of people off food stamps, the state of South Carolina delivered its own special holiday present to the poor. On Thursday afternoon, Seema Verma, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, joined South Carolina governor Henry McMaster to announce new work requirements for Medicaid recipients. South Carolina is now the first non-Medicaid expansion state to receive a waiver that will make the program more restrictive — which means that Verma will have plenty of content for this year’s Christmas tweet. Last year Verma tweeted:
As a result of the waiver, able-bodied people who receive Medicaid will now have to work or participate in some “community engagement activity” 80 hours per month, the Charleston Post and Courier reports.
Experts say the waiver will take Medicaid away from around 14,000 people over the next five years. Most are mothers, and they are disproportionately likely to be women of color who live in rural areas. “We do think this will have a profound negative impact on Medicaid recipients,” Sue Berkowitz of the South Carolina Appleseed Justice Center told the Greeneville News.
In a joint letter, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a range of other health and children’s rights groups warned that the waiver “does nothing to help parents living in or near poverty to overcome the barriers they face in obtaining jobs, such as providing affordable, quality childcare and job training, but instead adds red tape burdens that will fall squarely on parents’ shoulders.”
Verma, however, struck a more upbeat tone on Thursday. “In a spirit of humility — recognizing that Washington D.C. does not hold all the answers — the Trump Administration has sought at every turn to grant states flexibility in shaping their Medicaid programs,” she said. “South Carolina’s requirements — complete with appropriate protections — will lift South Carolinians out of poverty by encouraging as many as possible to participate in the booming Trump economy.”
But Verma is perhaps not the best spokesperson for self-sufficiency and humility. Since taking over CMS, she’s gobbled up a lot of taxpayer money. A recent report in Politico illustrates the extent of her appetite: In August, after her bags were stolen in San Francisco, she filed a lost property claim for $47,000 with CMS. “Verma’s claim included $43,065 for about two dozen pieces of jewelry, based off an appraisal she’d received from a jeweler about three weeks after the theft,” Politico explained. “Among Verma’s stolen jewelry was an Ivanka Trump-brand pendant, made of gold, prasiolite and diamonds, that Verma’s jeweler valued at $5,900.” Verma eventually received $2,852.40 in compensation. This isn’t her first grab for public funds, either. Politico had previously reported that Verma “directed millions of taxpayer dollars” to consultants tasked with raising her personal profile. Let no one suggest that Verma is not an advocate for redistribution in her own favor.
Poor parents in South Carolina, though? They’re just moochers.