Obama admin veteran Brooks-LaSure sworn in as new CMS administrator

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure will be the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services after a close vote in the Senate Tuesday. (Tupungato/GettyImages)

Obama administration veteran Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was sworn in Thursday to be the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The ceremony comes a few days after the Senate voted 55-44 to confirm her to helm the agency responsible for Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act (ACA) policies and regulations.

Brooks-LaSure was previously the director of coverage policy at the Department of Health and Human Services and led the implementation of the ACA’s coverage and insurance reform policy provisions.

She takes over an agency likely to come under major Republican scrutiny on how to unwind controversial waivers for Medicaid policy.

The Senate Finance Committee split evenly on whether to advance her nomination as CMS administrator, with all Republicans on the panel refusing to back her. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was still able to bring her nomination to the floor after a key procedural vote.

Republicans have bashed CMS’ decision to pull a waiver that extended Texas’ Medicaid program through 2030. The Trump administration approved the waiver right before President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January.

But CMS has claimed that the approval process for the waiver was flawed and the comment process was insufficient. Texas has sued the federal government to get the decision reversed.

CMS is also making moves to withdraw controversial Medicaid work requirement waivers approved under the Trump administration.

Brooks-LaSure will also take the lead on several other major regulatory issues, including how to make flexibilities for telehealth permanent.

The confirmation vote earned plaudits from provider groups. 

"Ms. Brooks-LaSure is a tireless advocate for improving health equity and access to quality care," said David Hoyt, M.D., executive director of the American College of Surgeons, in a statement. "Surgeons across the country look forward to working with CMS leadership and the entire Biden-Harris administration on advocating for patients and improving access to high-quality surgical care.”

The Association for Community Affiliated Plans, which represents safety-net health plans, also praised the confirmation. 

"We celebrate particularly her efforts to oppose barriers—such as work requirements—that further complicate Medicaid eligibility determination, her support for policies that root out racial inequities in maternal health, and her spoken desire to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and restore protections lost over the last four years," said Margaret A. Murray, the group's CEO, in a statement.

The Association of Health Insurance Plans, a top insurance lobbying group, also said that Brooks-LaSure "is passionately committed to improving health equity in our nation’s health care system."