Seema Verma, who has worked closely on healthcare with Vice President-elect Mark Pence in Indiana state, has been nominated by Donald Trump to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services overseeing government health insurance programs.
By assigning her “to the dream team that will transform our healthcare system,” a major campaign promise, President-elect Donald Trump by choosing Seema Verma for a high-level position in his administration, is on his way to revamp the system. Verma is the second Indian American to be on the new administration to be formed by Trump.
Announcing his intent to nominate them, Trump said: “Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.” About Verma, Trump said: “She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems.”
“I look forward to helping him tackle our nation’s daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way,” Verma said after Trump’s announcement.
Verma comes to the job with extensive Medicaid experience. Her consulting firm, SVC, Inc., worked closely with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to design Indiana’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The expansion, known as the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, went into effect early last year, and Verma’s involvement in it may prove important as Congress and the Trump administration, including the Vice-president elect, make decisions on the future of Obamacare.
Indiana’s unique Medicaid expansion was designed to appeal to conservatives. HIP 2.0 asks covered people to make a small monthly payment to access health insurance. A missed payment can result in six-month lockout from insurance coverage. Those provisions aren’t allowed under traditional Medicaid, but Indiana got a federal waiver to implement them.
With a track-record of developing Republican-friendly healthcare programs, Verma will play a crucial role in carrying out the high-priority Trump campaign promise of scrapping President Barack Obama’s healthcare program, popularly known as Obamacare, and replacing it with “something better.”
Although Verma’s job is not of cabinet rank now, it has great political importance and she will be in the national spotlight because she will be working on the controversial Republican vow to end Obama’s signature healthcare program, which attempts to make affordable health insurance available to all, and come up with a new model.
The Medicare program that she will oversee provides insurance for over 46 million retirees and senior citizens, who are a politically powerful block, and Medicaid, which covers the poor, has about 60 million people enrolled in it. Together they are about a third of the U.S. population. Additionally now, she will have to help shape a program for those who are outside of these two programs and do not get health insurance from their employers.
Her appointment has been widely welcomed by the growing Indian American community. Dr. Ajay Lodha, the president of the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin, said, “The Indian community of physicians is very excited by the appointment of an Indian American to this high-level position by Present-elect Trump. We will support her endeavors,” he added. “We expect her to make Medicare more patient-friendly, especially in reforming the part of it that provides medicines.” There are nearly 70,000 doctors of Indian descent working in the US, making them an important constituency for healthcare reforms.
Susan Jo Thomas, who heads the Indiana insurance advocacy group Covering Kids and Families, says Verma’s contributions to HIP 2.0 made Medicaid expansion possible in a Republican state. “She understood that in order to get expansion in this state, it’s more about what is palatable, what can get approved,” she says.
Rep. Charlie Brown, the ranking Democrat in the state’s public health committee. “She is a smooth operator, and very, very persuasive,” he says. Brown worked in opposition to Verma in crafting the Healthy Indiana Plan, but said she was effective across party lines at incorporating the Pence administration’s wishes. She’s very resourceful and intelligent,” says Brown. “But the question now becomes, ‘What will be her marching orders as they relate to Medicare and Medicaid?’ ”
Verma, who heads a healthcare consulting company, SVC Inc., helped develop a public healthcare system in Indiana for implementing Obamacare. Among other things, it requires those using it to make contributions to it, even if it is a dollar for the poorest, which is opposed by many Democrats. She has also consulted with other Republican-run states on healthcare issues. Verma was awarded the Indiana state award, Sagamore of the Wabash, by Pence.