The new Biden administration has begun the arduous process of rescinding Trump-era rules harming the disabled and seniors. President Trump and his appointees spent four years undermining the health and financial security of some of society’s most vulnerable members. While they failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and were not successful in slashing budgets for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Trump officials utilized executive power to achieve their ideological ends. Simply stated, the goal was to cut spending and resources for social insurance and safety net programs while enriching the private sector wherever possible.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Social Security Administration were at the forefront of these efforts. Now under the Biden administration’s control, CMS began this week to roll back healthcare rules negatively affecting Medicare that originated under Trump.
“The withdrawn rules come after President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ronald Klain ordered a freeze on new or pending rules issued by the Trump administration. The freeze prevents the departments and agencies from implementing the rules until the Biden administration has had a chance to review them.” – Becker’s Hospital CFO Report, 1/26/21
The Biden administration has its work cut out for it. Not only did the Trump administration meddle with Medicare, it effectuated onerous work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries, and championed block grants which could cause millions of patients to lose coverage. As we wrote in this space earlier this month:
“Medicaid has been fulfilling its mission since it was signed into law 55 years ago. Health care advocates (and seniors’ advocates) know that if something’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed. But corporatist politicians can’t seem to tolerate the government spending money to care for low-income Americans and seniors.” – Entitled to Know, 1/15/21
President Biden also has already started rolling back pernicious policies from Trump’s Social Security Administration (SSA) that were designed to make it more difficult for disabled workers to claim – and retain – SSDI benefits.
One of the next agenda items for Biden’s team is to reverse another Trump-era rule that sought so strip power from career administrative law judges (ALJs) in deciding Social Security Disability Insurance claim disputes, giving political appointees greater influence in the process.
“This unprecedented move, which may well be illegal, would effectively deny due process to people who have a right to these benefits by allowing political appointees to manipulate the adjudication of claims.” – Mark J. Stern, Slate magazine, 1/27/2021
Meanwhile, there is growing pressure for President Biden to remove Trump’s appointed Social Security Commissioner, Andrew Saul, whose term isn’t set to expire until 2025. As Slate reported on Wednesday, many seniors’ advocates believe that Saul (a former board member of the right-wing Manhattan Institute) will continue to undermine Social Security if allowed to continue as commissioner.
Reversing four years of Trump administration sabotage will take time. Undoing regulatory rules and executive orders can be a long and drawn-out process. But, like any malignancy, they must be removed. President Biden, who during the campaign called Social Security and Medicare “sacred obligations,” is off to a good start.