MacIver News Service
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. – U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wants answers about what many see as a $200 million, taxpayer-funded scam designed to fatten big labor’s wallet.
In a letter this week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Oshkosh Republican is demanding information about the practice of government employee unions “skimming” federal dollars from Medicaid beneficiaries before the payments reach the intended recipients.
Many of those being skimmed are home health care workers, classified by some states as “government workers” despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision that union dues cannot be collected without the recipients’ consent.
“In 2016, American taxpayers spent $565.5 billion on the Medicaid program,” Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wrote in the letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
“Although this funding is intended to help low-income families and the disabled, eleven states allow unions to classify personal home health care workers—including family caregivers—as government employees for the purposes of collecting union dues,” Johnson added. “This classification allows states to skim an estimated $200 million each year in union dues—taxpayer money that would otherwise go to the care of Medicaid recipients.”
Johnson’s committee is looking into the rising costs of Medicaid programs.
In his letter, the senator notes that federal Medicaid law prohibits payments for care to any entity other than the individual providing the care.
“In addition, in 2014, the Supreme Court held that states may not collect union dues from home health care providers without their consent,” Johnson wrote, referring to the court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling, which established “partial-public employees” could not be forced to pay union dues against their will. “Even so, some home health care workers say that unions have been skimming dues without their consent.”
In January, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) announced plans to introduce a bill that would end the siphoning of tax dollars to unions.
Unions such as SEIU and AFSCME in Washington and 10 other states successfully pushed changes to laws, designating home care aides as public employees. The classification brought the workers – whether they wanted to or not – into the union fold. States then began withholding union dues from the workers’ paychecks.
“Before 2014, most home caregivers in these states were required to pay union dues as a condition of participating in their state’s home care program,” the Freedom Foundation noted in a January release reporting on McMorris-Rodgers’ legislation.
Still, the labor groups and their liberal political allies, whose left-wing agendas are financially supported by union dues, found ways to get around the high court’s decision, allowing the shakedown in many cases to continue.
“In Washington, for instance, newly hired individual providers (IPs) must sit through two captive-audience meetings with union organizers as part of their initial orientation and training during which they are pressured into signing union membership forms. The fine print on these membership forms makes it very difficult for the signer to ever cancel the dues deductions from their pay,” the Freedom Foundation notes.
“Even if a caregiver never signs a union membership form, however, the state will still deduct full union dues — 3.2 percent of wages — from the IP’s pay automatically. Objecting IPs, if they notice the deductions, must demand in writing the deductions be stopped.”
Johnson is asking CMS to review the “skimming” practice and “determine whether changes to law or regulation (at the federal level) are necessary to ensure the Medicaid funds are provided to the program’s intended beneficiaries.”
The Senator wants CMS to explain what actions it is taking to prevent states from “skimming” union dues from Medicaid payments without the consent of the home health care provider. And he asks the agency to provide the amount of Medicaid funds, since Fiscal Year 2009, intended for home health care workers that states have diverted for union dues.
“Please respond as soon as possible but no later than 5:00 p.m. on May 14, 2018, so that the Committee may begin to receive responsive material,” Johnson states in his letter.