U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a disheartening track record with healthcare.
Trump’s nominee, Seema Verma, will the Baltimore-based agency that runs the two aforementioned programs, as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges.
The CMS is responsible for managing the healthcare benefits for 140 million Americans. Annually, the agency spends roughly $1 trillion, spending that far exceeding that of the Defense Department — showcasing just how powerful Verma’s position truly is.
However, the agency holds great influence over the U.S. healthcare system beyond simply regulations. As the Huffington Post reports, “Medicare is the single-largest purchaser of health care and its policies commonly are adopted by private health care companies.”
This is troubling because Verma has a history of making decisions that suggest her moves while in this position could result in poor people paying more for their healthcare.
Verma served as an adviser to now-Vice President Mike Pence while he was governor of Indiana. She has also been running SVC Inc., a consulting firm in Indiana which advises states on Medicaid policy. Many suspect that Medicaid is the area where Verma could make the biggest changes without requiring congressional action.
According to the Huffington Post,
“Republicans in Congress also are considering overhauls of Medicare and Medicaidthat would significantly reduce federal funding for the programs. If confirmed, Verma will be working under Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Together, they would be responsible for implementing new health care reforms if Congress enacts any.”
Verma is the creator of the Healthy Indiana Plan — a controversial conservative privatized version of Medicaid which was established by former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2007. As governor, Mike Pence expanded the Healthy Indiana Plan using ACA funding. She also consulted on Medicaid expansions in Michigan and Ohio. However, these medicaid expansions all require people living slightly above the poverty line to pay more for healthcare than they would under traditional Medicaid.
“In Indiana… enrollees must make monthly payments into “POWER Accounts” modeled after health savings accounts, which they use to pay out-of-pocket costs. But enrollees can be locked out of the program if they fail to make the payments or if they don’t fulfill its other requirements meant to encourage healthful behavior.”
Even more problematic is the fact that Verma actually testified before a House subcommittee in 2013 and suggested that poor people are ideal candidates for plans like the Healthy Indiana Plan she constructed because such plans force poor people to pull together funds in order to maintain healthcare coverage.
She said to the subcommittee that,
“[Poor people] are perhaps the best consumers of a dollar. They’ve had experience stretching a dollar.”
Verma is set to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday morning.