Federal bureaucrats tout equity while championing burdensome regulations that harm minorities

By Kelly Mitchell, Director of Minority Outreach

Originally published in The Washington Examiner here

There is no shortage of examples of hypocrisy from big government federal agencies, but few are as glaring as what we just saw from President Joe Biden ’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Not a lot of people even know what CMS is or does, but its policies touch the lives and healthcare of millions of people.

On the same day this week that CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure hosted a taxpayer-funded conference to applaud herself for advancing “equity,” her lawyers were in court in Tyler, Texas, defending a legal challenge against a CMS regulation that would devastate healthcare equity for minorities across the country.

At the beginning of 2023, CMS recycled a previously defeated rule called the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation, or MFAR. This federal overreach would restructure the current system to allow federal bureaucrats to micromanage how states administer their Medicaid programs, resulting in billions of dollars per year being cut from funding for hospitals that serve the poor, pregnant mothers, and seniors. In April, Texas filed a legal challenge arguing that CMS exceeded its legal authority by issuing these regulations. The case is pending in the Eastern District of Texas before Judge Jeremy Kernodle.

In an effort to defend MFAR, CMS invoked a legal standard called the “net effect” test. In the legal context, this test allows victims of discrimination to challenge laws that disparately affect protected classes. However, in this case, CMS flips the intended purpose of this legal standard on its head, using it to harm disproportionately the very groups it is designed to protect: minorities and marginalized members of society.

The negative consequences of MFAR wouldn’t just be bad for patients. The loss of funding for hospitals would also cost desperately needed jobs, especially in rural and urban communities. The loss of revenue could also harm the pockets of consumers, forcing tax hikes at the state level that would only make the effect on the economy worse.

If CMS goes through with this rule change, the losers will be the most vulnerable among us. The agency has taken a weapon against injustice and used it against those it was meant to defend.

The outrageous hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. When former President Donald Trump was in office and federal bureaucrats tried to push this same policy, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had no trouble recognizing that MFAR would be a disaster for minorities across the country. Then-candidate Biden put his opposition to the rule on his campaign website, and Harris wrote a letter with dozens of other Democratic senators asserting the regulation “would be devastating to providers across the country and the vulnerable low-income patients who rely on them.” Trump wisely changed course and forced these bureaucrats to withdraw the regulation. Democrats and Republicans applauded the move.

Thankfully, principled and bipartisan voices are again pushing against this destructive federal overreach. Earlier this week, Texas state Sens. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat, brought together a bipartisan group of lawmakers and faith leaders to urge the Biden administration to change course. At this press conference, Bishop James Dixon, president of the Houston NAACP, reminded the Biden administration that in Texas, “over 60% of babies born in black and brown families require Medicaid funding.” Dixon pleaded for reason: “Please do not play politics with people’s lives.”

He wisely warned that “power unguided by principle will always lead to death and destruction.”

“This press conference will not end our efforts. It’s only the beginning of a bipartisan effort,” he added.

People, especially seniors, need to start paying attention to what CMS says and does. And if CMS truly wants to advance healthcare equity, they will heed Dixon’s call and immediately withdraw MFAR.

Kelly Mitchell is the director of minority outreach for the 60 Plus Association, which advocates seniors who believe in market-based solutions and are dedicated to protecting your right to freedom of speech and limited but effective government.