Moments after the Senate confirmed Seema Verma as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on
Monday evening, the healthcare industry responded with positive statements about her problem-solving skills and extensive experience on Medicaid policy.
The Senate voted 55-43 in favor of her appointment. A majority vote was needed to secure her confirmation, and as expected the vote primarily fell across party lines. Not one Republican voted against the appointment. Democratic Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined Republicans in supporting her confirmation.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., did not vote.
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Verma served as the president, CEO and founder of SVC Inc., a national health policy consulting company. She has close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, with whom she worked on Indiana’s Medicaid expansion plan when he was governor.
Prior to the vote, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised her experience, saying she has a “keen understanding of patients’ needs."
"She certainly has the expertise to create a healthcare model this country needs and improve the lives of the 100 million Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid," Hatch added.
But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member of the finance committee, opposed her nomination. In light of the Congressional Budget Office score of the Republican health care bill, which found 24 million Americans will lose insurance coverage and $880 billion dollars would be slashed form Medicaid in the first decade of the plan, he said that if the bill passes Verma will be in charge of the specifics.
“If Trumpcare passes, under section 132, she’d be able to give states a green light to shunt their sick patients into high-risk pools, when the historical record shows that high-risk pools are a failure when it comes to offering good coverage that’s affordable,” he said. “Section 134 would put her in charge of deciding exactly how skimpy Trumpcare plans will be and how much more Americans will be forced to pay out of pocket for the care they need. Section 135 would let her pave the way for health insurers to make coverage more expensive for people approaching retirement age. And that’s only the beginning.”
But healthcare industry leaders mainly issued praise of Verma shortly after the vote. Federation of American Hospital’s President and CEO Chip Kahn called her a “problem solver” who has successfully developed coverage programs for low-income Americans.
“I am confident she will approach her new role with the quest to do the right thing, as she has done for her entire career—bringing people together to improve healthcare quality and access for our families and patients,” he said.
The Alliance of Community Health Plans congratulated Verma and noted the position requires a “true balancing act,” as she will need to oversee coverage issues, difficult financial consideration and ensure that 100 million Americans who receive healthcare through Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP continue to receive the care they need.
“We look forward to working with Ms. Verma towards our shared priorities of quality, access and affordability of care during what is a particularly uncertain time in healthcare,” said ACHP President and CEO Ceci Connolly.
And the AMGA praised Verma’s extensive experience in working with policymakers to transform state Medicaid programs.
But Ted Chan, founder and CEO of the healthcare review site CareDash, was less enthusiastic. Her past policy positions indicate that “she is out of touch with the harsh realities facing low-to-middle income Americans, many of whom are newly insured through the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “No parent should be forced to decide between putting food on the table and paying for health insurance, yet many faced this very unconscionable dilemma under the policies Ms. Verma helped architect in Indiana.”