Still no word on whether CMS will approve lifetime Medicaid limits

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Lawmakers and reporters alike have been unable to pin down Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma on her agency's view of states' requests to impose lifetime coverage limits on Medicaid beneficiaries.

Verma told a media briefing in Washington, D.C., Thursday that to obtain CMS approval, the requests must “meet the objectives of the Medicaid program.” 

“I can't comment on how we're going to come out on it, but we are giving every state a chance to go through that process and go through that vigorous review,” she said, according to an Inside Health Policy account.

Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Utah and Wisconsin have requested waivers allowing them to cap the number of years that some beneficiaries can remain on Medicaid.

In all the requests, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities would be exempt from coverage limits, The Hill reported last month. 

But the agency's lack of comment on the proposed time limits is in stark comparison to its public support for other waivers, such as work requirements.

And Democrats and some healthcare advocates have sharply criticized the proposals, arguing that they are outside the agency's authority to approve. Two dozen Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Committee sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month asking him to reject all requests for lifetime limits.

Some say the proposals would hit aging Americans especially hard.

“That's because anyone who lost a job during one or more recessions over the course of their adult life could exhaust their five-year limit on Medicaid coverage before they turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare,” wrote Jess Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “If they lost a job again in their near-retirement years, they'd have nowhere to turn for health coverage at a time when their health needs are greater and their cost of buying coverage in the individual market is the highest.”