POLITICS
10/31/2018 05:51 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2018

Twitter Users Erupt In Anger Over HHS Official's Halloween-Themed Medicare Joke

Seema Verma is the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Twitter users were appalled on Wednesday when an official with the Department of Health and Human Services decided to celebrate Halloween by tweeting an insensitive joke about Medicare.

Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which falls under HHS, joked on Twitter that the “scariest Halloween costume” would be a shirt championing “Medicare for all.”

The rate of uninsured U.S. adults ages 19 to 64 has risen from 12.7 percent in 2016 to 15.5 percent in 2018, according to the health care foundation Commonwealth Fund. Roughly 4 million people lost coverage in the last two years, likely as a result of the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, the foundation said.

The uninsured rate is particularly high among lower-income adults, those making roughly $30,000 for an individual and $61,000 for a family of four.

Verma subsequently tweeted about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ efforts to “strengthen Medicare” and retweeted an article arguing that it would be a bad idea for all Americans to have access to a single-payer national health insurance program.

Many Twitter users were not convinced.

Verma doubled down on her original post later on Wednesday, calling the notion of Medicare for all a “multi-trillion dollar drain on the American economy.”

The Medicare-for-all plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and others on the left is projected to cost the federal government roughly $32 trillion over 10 years ― an indisputably large sum, but roughly the same or even less than the country as a whole would spend in that time under the current commercial health care system.

The proposed Medicare-for-all plan would also likely not “strip choice” from Americans in determining their health care options, as Verma claimed.

This story has been updated to include Verma’s follow-up tweet and further context.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify a statistic about the uninsured rate that mischaracterized certain annual incomes as being beneath the poverty line. 

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