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Medicaid Redesign Expert, Seema Verma, Receives Hearing to Serve as Head of CMS

February 16, 2017

In a hearing today, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee considered the nomination of Seema Verma—an experienced health care policy consultant who has championed redesign of Medicaid in several states—as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

In testimony before the Finance Committee, Ms. Verma cited she will “work toward policies that foster patient-centered care and increase competition, quality, and access while driving down costs.” She highlighted her desire to “find creative ways to empower people to take ownership of their health” and stressed her priorities:

  • Modernizing CMS’s programs
  • Leveraging innovation and technology
  • Preventing fraud and abuse
  • Solidifying the sustainability of federal health care programs
  • Providing state flexibility

Ms. Verma was the prime architect of the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP)—Indiana’s program to expand and reform Medicaid. The program, built around concepts of personal responsibility, expands coverage to newly eligible low-income adults through a high-deductible Medicaid managed care plan with an HSA-like account. Beneficiaries are responsible for contributing to the HSA-like account, and cover some cost sharing and premium payments. Healthy behavior incentives are built into the structure.

Ms. Verma has also worked with Iowa, Kentucky and Ohio in the pursuit of Medicaid waivers.

Members of the Finance Committee sought clarity regarding Ms. Verma’s perspectives on a wide range of topics including repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, proposals to reform the Medicare program, delivery system and payment reform, implementation of electronic health records, reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, strategies to address fraud and abuse, and prescription drug costs. She refrained from stating absolute positions but often referred to concerns with the status quo and the need to provide additional flexibilities to improve the quality of care provided.

HAP will seek opportunities to advance areas of common interest with the new Administration—including the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS), Tom Price, MD, and the incoming leadership of the CMS. A particular area of focus will be reducing the regulatory burdens faced by hospitals. In a December 2, 2016 letter to President-elect Trump, the American Hospital Association (AHA) outlined an extensive list of actions the new administration could take to reduce regulatory burdens faced by hospitals. Specific examples include:

  • Expanding Medicare coverage of telehealth services
  • Providing regulatory flexibility in payment reform models
  • Addressing regulatory requirements on the use of electronic health records
  • Modernizing fraud laws to allow greater clinical integration
  • Addressing barriers that limit the sharing of information in clinically integrated care

HAP looks forward to working in collaboration with the AHA, the new Administration, and the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation to achieve the goals of the triple aim—better care for individuals, improved health for communities and lower costs in care delivery. Questions on federal advocacy activity may be directed to Laura Stevens Kent, HAPs vice president, federal advocacy.

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