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Monday, March 13, 2017

Seema Verma Confirmed by Senate as CMS Chief

Following a relatively benign debate about the new CMS Chief, Seema Verma is confirmed as the new head of CMS.

Seema Verma, nominee to head CMS, listens during a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC.

Physicians seem to be  content that she is a governmental minimalist and favors voluntary participation in government programs rather than mandatory participation

Vice-President Pence was instrumental in recommending her to the position as he had worked closely with the Medicaid program in Ohio.

Verma has specialized in working with state Medicaid programs to improve care while lowering costs. The Trump administration will count on her to achieve those goals in a federal program that stands to shrink in a House Republican bill that repeals and replaces the 7-year-old Affordable Care Act (ACA). The measure would eliminate expanded Medicaid eligibility that 31 states chose under the ACA, and convert open-ended federal contributions to state programs to a fixed, per-capita amount, putting the program on a budget, as it were.

Verma's work with the Medicaid program in Indiana may be a preview of the program's future. She designed a "consumer-directed" version of Medicaid called Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) that gives beneficiaries a Personal Wellness and Responsibility (POWER) account — similar to a health savings account — to apply toward a $2500 deductible. And while Vice President Mike Pence was governor of the Hoosier State, she helped created HIP 2.0, which expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA. Beneficiaries who contribute a small percentage of their income to their POWER accounts are entitled to extra benefits such as dental and vision coverage.
Like the president that nominated her, the new CMS administrator espouses a small-government philosophy that many physicians may find refreshing. At her confirmation hearing, Verma said that physician participation in Medicare pilot projects for delivering and reimbursing medical care should be voluntary, not mandatory. She also decried federal regulations that might discourage physicians from participating in Medicaid and Medicare, and the burdens that electronic health records impose on clinicians in connection with the meaningful use incentive program.

Seema Verma Confirmed by Senate as CMS Chief

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