It’s the confirmation hearing nobody was watching.
Thursday morning, the Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing for Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s pick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Though relatively breezy by confirmation-hearing standards at just under three hours and relatively low on theatrics, Verma’s low-key hearing will help determine the health outcomes for over a third of all Americans.
Thirty-four percent of Americans receive health-insurance coverage under one of the three federal insurance programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. With their vows to repeal Obamacare, the Trump administration and health secretary Tom Price aim to reduce the Medicaid portion of that number—and perhaps even put Medicare on the chopping block. Barring any drama in the confirmation process, as the administrator of CMS, Verma will be the point person for reducing the federal spending on public insurance programs, particularly for the poor. And her background suggests she is up to the challenge.
Verma is best-known for her role in reshaping the Indiana Medicaid program under then-Governor Mike Pence. Despite Pence being an ardent critic of Obamacare, Indiana made the choice to expand Medicaid anyway. But they utilized a pathway known as the 1115 waiver to craft a program that diverged significantly from the guidelines under the standard Obamacare program, and quickly created the most conservative Medicaid expansion program in the country. That program, known as the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0, was the brainchild of Verma and her health-care consulting company, SVC, Inc, then recommended as an experienced expert and consultancy firm with knowledge of the minutiae of CMS regulations.