The Trump administration is proposing a rule that could close off a pipeline that annually pours millions of dollars aimed at individuals into the bank accounts of labor unions.
The rule was implemented under the administration of former President Barack Obama, Fox News reported. The rule affects personal care workers who provide services to Medicaid-eligible, home-bound clients. Quite often, these service providers are family family members.
Since 2014, when Obama signed off on the rule, states have been able to shunt some Medicaid funds designed to reimburse health care workers to unions. The rule considered these independent workers were public-sector employees.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is now going to require that payments go directly to workers, unless they voluntarily want unions to get a slice of the money, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
“The law provides that Medicaid providers must be paid directly and cannot have part of their payments diverted to third parties outside of a few very specific exceptions,” Tim Hill, acting director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, said in a news release, according to the Free Beacon.
“This proposed rule is intended to ensure that providers receive their complete payment, and any circumstances in which a state does divert part of a provider’s payment must be clearly allowed under the law.”
Earlier this year, when the House was considering a bill to stop the diversion, advocates said action was needed.
“What bothers me the most is, I know a lot of parents, because I’m in this community,” Miranda Thorpe, a registered nurse who provides care for her daughter, Sarena, 21, said in January, according to Fox News. “And none of them really understand that this is happening to them. They have no idea.”
“I don’t think the state should be the factor that colludes with unions to take out this money without people’s knowledge. If they really wanted people to have a choice, then they should let them know what their options are. … I think it’s very unfair, since this is a very vulnerable population.”
Although the proposed new rule estimates unions are grabbing $71 million a year, Republicans have estimated up to $200 million a year is diverted to unions, Fox News reported in January.
“Union dues skimming diverts Medicaid funds from the very people that the program is supposed to help,” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told Fox News in a statement last week. “I applaud the Trump administration for taking the first steps to rein in this abuse.”
“My committee will continue to conduct oversight of CMS’s stewardship of Medicaid funds so that American taxpayers can have confidence the funds flow to those in need,” Johnson said..
In 2014, personal care aides in Illinois sued to end the practice. The Supreme Court sided with the aides, but the practice has continued, leading to action from Washington.
“This is robbing our nation’s most vulnerable who need Medicaid the most. Every dollar that is diverted from a caregiver to a union hurts that family’s ability to care for their loved ones. Paying unions is not what Medicaid was designed for,” Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said when the topic was up for discussion in January.
In a statement last week, Maxford Nelson, a labor expert for the conservative think tank the Freedom Foundation, agreed.
“This illegal and exploitive practice has victimized hundreds of thousands of caregivers,” Nelson said in the statement, according to The Daily Caller. “It has only been allowed to persist because it generated significant funds for a politically connected special interest group. Hopefully, the administration follows through with meaningful action and does the right thing for caregivers.”
The Service Employees International Union, one of the largest unions representing health care workers, attacked the new rule, comparing it to the Supreme Court’s Janus decision released in June that limited the ability of public sector unions to collect fees from workers who don’t want to join them.
In a statement, the union charged:
“The proposed CMS rule, combined with the Janus ruling, are two more efforts by the Trump Administration and billionaire-funded special interest groups to silence a workforce comprised of 90 percent women, most of whom are women of color, and to reduce the power of working people by making it more difficult for them to join together in a union to fight to ensure that our loved ones can get the care they need to live at home with dignity.”
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