An Army National Guard member carries bottled water for a Flint, Michigan, resident earlier this month. | Getty
The Obama administration plans to extend Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and children affected by the Flint, Michigan water crisis, senior officials told House Democrats on Friday.
During a meeting with leading House Democrats, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Assistant Secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told lawmakers they anticipate being able to offer health care coverage to some individuals who may have consumed contaminated water in Flint.
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The Medicaid coverage would include lead-blood level monitoring, behavioral health and nutritional support. The secretaries also told lawmakers that HHS is working with Michigan on an expedited basis.
“Leader Pelosi appreciates the in-depth briefing this morning from the administration and is pleased that HHS is signaling their willingness to grant this Medicaid waiver for children and expectant mothers,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder needs to formally request the coverage, but he’s already signaled he intends to do so.
“We’re focused on protecting the health and welfare of Flint residents, especially children and young adults who might have been exposed to lead,” Snyder said previously. “We want to make sure comprehensive medical care services are available, and we hope the federal government will partner in our efforts.”
Pregnant women and children are at increased risk from the lead that entered the Flint water system. It’s become a major health and political issue. House Democrats have asked for new funding to help repair the city’s water infrastructure and provide aid to residents who have gotten sick.
House Democrats also want Snyder to testify on the Flint water crisis but the GOP governor has declined to appear at previous congressional hearings organized by Democrats. On Friday, Snyder’s office called Republicans on the House Oversight Committee and asked to appear at a future hearing.
Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, whose district includes Flint, said Snyders’ testimony will help residents move forward.
“The Governor’s administration and his state-appointed emergency financial managers created this crisis and he must answer questions so that the whole truth can be found. Flint families deserve answers from the Governor and immediate solutions from the state about what is being done to make things right for the people of Flint.”
There have also been calls for state officials who knew about the contamination but failed to act to face criminal charges. The Department of Justice said it will conduct an investigation.
During the meeting with House Democrats Friday, McCarthy explained that the EPA is continuing to monitor drinking water quality and share that information with residents of Flint.
Burwell and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy plan to travel to Flint next week.
The meeting was held at Pelosi’s request. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Sander Levin and others attended.