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March 14, 2017

What to expect from Trump's newly confirmed CMS pick

Daily Briefing

The Senate on Monday voted 55-43 to confirm President Trump's nominee for CMS administrator, Seema Verma.

Verma is well known for her work with Indiana officials to reform the state's Medicaid program. As head of CMS, she will play a key role in Medicare and Medicaid reforms under the Trump administration, including major payment policy changes called for under MACRA. In addition, Verma will have a hand in implementing Republican proposals to change the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if the proposals become law.

How Trump's CMS pick transformed Medicaid in Indiana—and drew both praise and condemnation

Lawmakers react

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised Verma's confirmation, saying she would work with HHS Secretary Tom Price and Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace the ACA. He added that Verma "is a reformer with a proven record of success."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hailed Verma as "the ideal candidate to oversee the reform of the Medicaid program."

However, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) slammed Verma for her work on Indiana's reformed Medicaid program, which Cantwell said "kick[ed] poor, working people off of Medicaid for failure to pay monthly contributions similar to premiums."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also criticized Verma for supporting proposals that "create roadblocks to coverage for low-income Americans."

But not all Democrats expressed opposition to Verma's nomination. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who was among the three Democrats who voted in support of Verma's nomination, said "hundreds of thousands" of Indiana residents "currently have health insurance" under the Medicaid reforms Verma helped to implement in the state. He added, "This plan has helped to lower [Indiana's] uninsured rate and improve health care outcomes, and has played a critical role in combating" opioid-related substance use disorders in the state.

Others focused on reforms Verma could help to implement outside of Medicaid. For instance, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) in a statement said, "Now that she has been confirmed, I hope ... Verma will spend time focusing on areas where bipartisan agreement can be found, including ways that we can improve care for chronically ill Medicare patients."

Trump's nominee for CMS admin talks Medicaid, value-based care, and more

Industry reacts

Industry stakeholders largely praised Verma's confirmation.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society congratulated Verma on her confirmation, adding that the group wishes to work with Verma on "recognizing the full value of health IT in ensuring interoperability, improving care, increasing access, and driving better health outcomes to patients."

Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH), called Verma "a problem solver who has been successful at developing and sustaining coverage programs for low-income Americans that have been both life savers for Medicaid recipients while cost effective for taxpayers." He added that FAH "look[s] forward to working with her as she brings these skills to her new role as CMS administrator."

Margaret Murray—CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans, which represents 59 safety net health plans—said Verma's "experience ... will serve her well" as she carries out the administration's "ambitious plan to bring change to the way that Medicaid is financed and administered." She added that her group "look[s] forward to working with ... Verma on pathways to refine the program while maintaining its guarantee of coverage for all eligible individuals, improving transparency and actuarial soundness in rate-setting, and assuring access to needed care and services."

However, Denial Hayes, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), had a more cautious reaction to Verma's confirmation, MedPage Today reports. Hayes in a statement said, "ASCO has previously called for Medicaid reform to ensure access to life-saving screening, treatment, and prevention services for low-income Americans with cancer," adding, "We are, therefore, hopeful that ... Verma's experience designing Indiana's Medicaid expansion program will now benefit all Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries on the national stage."

(Powderly, Healthcare Finance News, 3/13; Pradhan, Politico Pro, 3/13 [subscription required]; Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 3/13; Pear, New York Times, 3/13; Young, CQ News, 3/13 [subscription required]; Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 3/14; Frieden, MedPage Today, 3/13).

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