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Sen. Ron Wyden Accuses Medicaid Head Of Using Poor Americans As Political Bargaining Chip

<p>In this April 6, 2017, file photo, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. asks a question at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kyl., are asking the nation&rsquo;s top intelligence official to release more information about the communications of American citizens swept up in surveillance operations.</p>

Cliff Owen, File

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In this April 6, 2017, file photo, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. asks a question at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Wyden and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kyl., are asking the nation’s top intelligence official to release more information about the communications of American citizens swept up in surveillance operations.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is accusing the head of Medicare and Medicaid of using low-income Americans as a political bargaining chip.

Wyden and three other ranking Democrats have written a letter to Trump appointee Seema Verma, demanding an explanation for a report published by the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper reported that Verma had promised health insurance companies that if they supported the new Republican health care plan, they’d continue to receive lucrative cost-sharing payments, a program to assist the poor.

Wyden said he wants answers.

“Instead of trying to make backroom deals that would hit Oregon like a tsunami, I believe that Ms. Verma ought to be reaching out for bipartisan ways to improve health care.”

A spokeswoman for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services denied any quid pro quo dealings and called the Los Angeles Times story preposterous and completely false.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.