Seema Verma

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Seema Verma
Seema Verma official photo.jpg
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
In office
March 14, 2017 – January 20, 2021[1]
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byAndy Slavitt (acting)
Succeeded byElizabeth Richter (acting)
Personal details
Born (1970-09-26) September 26, 1970 (age 50)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
EducationUniversity of Maryland, College Park (BS)
Johns Hopkins University
(MPH)
AwardsSagamore of the Wabash (2016)[2]

Seema Verma (born September 26, 1970)[3] is an American health policy consultant and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. She is the founder and previous CEO of SVC, Inc., a health policy consulting firm.

Education[edit]

Verma received a bachelor's degree in life sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1993. She earned a Master of Public Health, with a concentration in health policy and management, from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 1996.[4]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Verma served as vice president of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County,[5] and worked at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Washington, D. C.[6]

SVC, Inc.[edit]

Verma founded health policy consulting firm SVC, Inc., in June 2001. She was president and CEO of the company, which has worked with state insurance agencies and public health agencies in preparation for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and assisted Indiana and Kentucky, as well as other states, in the design of Medicaid expansion programs under the ACA.[6] In her work with Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, she developed Medicaid reform programs under the Section 1115 waiver process.[7][8]

In 2014, significant ethics concerns were raised over a conflict of interest arising from Verma's dual roles as both a health care consultant for the State of Indiana and as an employee of a Hewlett-Packard division that is among Indiana's largest Medicaid vendors.[5] As of 2014, SVC, Inc., had been awarded over $3.5 million in Indiana state contracts, while Verma was concurrently employed with Hewlett-Packard, earning over $1 million during a period when the company had secured $500 million in state contracts.[9]

Trump administration[edit]

Verma speaks on the coronavirus pandemic from the White House press briefing room on April 19, 2020

On November 29, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Verma to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the insurance markets.[10] On March 13, 2017, the United States Senate confirmed her nomination in a 55–43 vote.[11] One of her first actions was to send a letter to the nation's governors, urging them to impose insurance premiums for Medicaid, charge Medicaid recipients for emergency room visits, and encourage recipients to obtain employment or job training.[12]

On July 25, 2018, Verma gave a speech[13] in San Francisco in which she criticized proposals for "Medicare for all". She claimed that single-payer health care would "destroy" Medicare, which provides insurance for elderly people, and lead to "Medicare for None."[14] The speech and her repeated attacks on Medicare-for-all proposals led to a lawsuit alleging that her actions violated the Hatch Act.[15]

Politico reported that Verma clashed with HHS Secretary Alex Azar over which plans will replace Obamacare, who will get credit for those efforts, and Verma's attempts to accompany the President on Air Force One instead of Azar (despite space limitations on the aircraft).[16] Verma in turn accused Azar of "sex discrimination;" these allegations were debunked after an extensive independent investigation.[17] [18] Reportedly, this was not the first clash Verma had with her superiors, as Verma hired a lawyer to file a claim of a "hostile work environment" against HHS Secretary Tom Price.[19] Prior to her tenure at CMS, the Indianapolis Star reported that Verma fought with Indiana Secretary Debra Minott leading to Minott losing her job.[20] The clashes extended to co-workers at CMS, as Verma was cited by her Chief of Staff in an independent HHS investigative report as being "insecure" and someone who "lashes out" at subordinates.[21]

On March 2, 2020, the office of Vice President Mike Pence announced Verma's addition to White House Coronavirus Task Force.[22][23] Verma was accused of moving too slowly to enact protective measures in U.S. nursing homes prior to and during the pandemic,[24] leading to avoidable COVID-19 deaths that comprise nearly one-third of all U.S. deaths related to COVID-19.[25]

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, she pushed Medicare officials to finalize a plan to $200 cards, branded with Trump's name, for Medicare recipients to use on drugs.[26] She pushed the officials to complete this before the November 3 election.[26] The taxpayer-funded plan was estimated to cost $7.9 billion and draw from Medicare's trust fund.[26]

One of the priorities during her tenure as CMS administrator was to make it possible for states to implement work requirements for Medicaid.[27] The Biden administration sought to reverse those moves.[27] She submitted her resignation days ahead of President Biden's swearing in as the next president of the United States.[28][29]

Use of taxpayer funds controversy[edit]

In March 2019, Politico reported that in her role as CMS administrator, Verma approved communications subcontracts worth more than $2 million of taxpayer funds on Republican-connected communications consultants and other expenses to boost her visibility and public image, leading to federal ethics and criminal investigations. Included in the consultants' work were proposals to have Verma featured in magazines like Glamour and have her invited to prestigious events like the Kennedy honors to increase her public persona.[30][31] Verma made an effort to purchase awards and honors for herself using taxpayer dollars.[32][33] She was noted to have a sizable travel entourage, which was atypical for a non-Cabinet official.[34] In July 2020, the HHS Inspector General reported that Verma spent more than $5 million in taxpayer funds to do communications work, and to help raise her profile. The report, a result of a 15-month investigation, concluded that Verma violated federal contracting rules: "CMS improperly administered the contracts and created improper employer-employee relationships between CMS and the contractors".[35][36][37]

Verma spent more than $3.5 million on Republican Party-aligned consultants to promote her. These consultants were paid to help her write tweets and speeches, polish her profile, and broker meetings with companies and high-profile individuals (including other members of government). Verma spent nearly $3,000 in taxpayer dollars on throwing a "Girl's Night" party in her honor[38], hundreds of dollars for makeup artists, as well as $13,000 to promote herself to win awards and appear on prestigious panels.[39] The consultants provided her with talking points on repealing the Affordable Care Act in 2017, and helped her write a 2018 opinion column under her name in the Washington Post arguing for Medicaid work requirements.[37]

One of the outside consultants that Verma paid was Marcus Barlow, who had been her spokesperson at her former consulting firm SVC.[40] He worked on three separate contracts for the CMS, earning between $209-$230 an hour in the contracts.[40] In the full Congressional investigation report, it was noted that consultants like Barlow were given access to market moving, non-public information by Verma, despite being warned not to do so.[41] Even after the HHS Inspector General and Congressional investigations had concluded, Verma continued to bring Barlow to official CMS functions as a media aide, including a December 2020 tour of the White House.[42]

On August 20, 2018, Verma filed a claim requesting that taxpayers reimburse her for jewelry she alleged was stolen on a work-related trip to San Francisco. Although she requested $47,000, including a $325 claim for partially used moisturizer and a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand gold and diamond pendant worn during meetings with President Trump, she ultimately received $2,852.40 in reimbursement.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Born in Virginia, Verma moved several times across the United States with her family, and once lived in Taiwan for five years, before settling in the greater Indianapolis area.[43] As of 2017, Verma and her family live in Carmel, Indiana.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lagasse, Jeff. "Elizabeth Richter named interim head of CMS as Biden transitions to new era". Healthcare Finance. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  2. ^ Hakim-Shabazz, Abdul (November 29, 2016). "Trump Picks HIP 2.0 Architect to Serve in Administration". Indy Politics. Archived from the original on November 30, 2016.
  3. ^ "- NOMINATION OF SEEMA VERMA, TO BE. Administrator, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES". congress.gov.
  4. ^ "Donald Trump meets with Dr. [sic] Seema Verma, who may help in restructuring Obamacare". The American Bazaar. November 22, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Cook, Tony (August 26, 2014). "Seema Verma, powerful state health-care consultant, serves two bosses". The Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on November 29, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Pradhan, Rachana (November 29, 2016). "Trump picks Seema Verma to head Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services". Politico.
  7. ^ Newkirk, Vann R., II (February 17, 2017). "Seema Verma's Austere Vision for Medicaid". The Atlantic. theatlantic.com. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  8. ^ Glenza, Jessica (December 4, 2016). "Trump's pick for key health post known for punitive Medicaid plan". The Guardian. theguardian.com. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  9. ^ Cook, Tony (December 12, 2014). "5 loopholes in Indiana's ethics laws". The Indianapolis Star.
  10. ^ Sanger-Katz, Margot (December 1, 2016). "A Trump Pick, and Why Indiana's Strict Medicaid Rules Could Spread". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "On the Nomination PN49: Seema Verma, of Indiana, to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services". GovTrack. March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Goldstein, Amy (March 15, 2017). "On first day in office, new Medicaid chief urges states to charge premiums, prod recipients to get jobs". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ MEDICARE AND MEDICAID ADMINISTRATOR SEEMA VERMA, YouTube, July 25, 2018, retrieved December 8, 2019
  14. ^ a b Diamond, Dan. "Medicare chief asked taxpayers to cover stolen jewelry". POLITICO. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  15. ^ "CREW Files Hatch Act Complaint Against CMS' Seema Verma". CREW. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  16. ^ "Clashes among top HHS officials undermine Trump agenda". Politico.
  17. ^ Owens, Jonathan Swan,Caitlin. "Tensions among top Trump health officials led to outside probe". Axios. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  18. ^ "Azar, Verma battle for Trump's favor amid White House showdown". POLITICO. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  19. ^ "Medicare chief sought to bring complaints against previous boss, as well". Politico.
  20. ^ Cook, Tony. "Seema Verma, powerful state health-care consultant, serves two bosses". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  21. ^ Owens, Jonathan Swan,Caitlin. "Tensions among top Trump health officials led to outside probe". Axios. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  22. ^ Lejeune, Tristan (March 2, 2020). "White House adds VA secretary, CMS chief to coronavirus task force". TheHill. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  23. ^ "Indian-American Seema Verma appointed as key member of US government's coronavirus task force". The New Indian Express. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  24. ^ Board, The Editorial (September 5, 2020). "Opinion | How Many of These 68,000 Deaths Could Have Been Avoided?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  25. ^ Times, The New York (June 27, 2020). "More Than One-Third of U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  26. ^ a b c Diamond, Dan. "Health officials scrambling to produce Trump's 'last-minute' drug cards by Election Day". POLITICO. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  27. ^ a b Kliff, Sarah; Sanger-Katz, Margot (February 12, 2021). "Biden Administration Moves to End Work Requirements in Medicaid". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  28. ^ "Indian-American Seema Verma Quits Donald Trump's Administration". www.outlookindia.com/. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  29. ^ "Indian-American Seema Verma resigns as CMS administrator". The Economic Times. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  30. ^ "Exclusive: Key Trump health official spends millions on GOP-connected consultants". Politico. March 29, 2019.
  31. ^ "Contractor proposed Glamour magazine profile for Medicaid chief". Politico. November 20, 2019.
  32. ^ "$2,933 for 'Girl's Night': Medicaid chief's consulting expenses revealed". POLITICO. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  33. ^ "Democratic Committee Leaders Release Report Detailing Abuse of Taxpayer Funds by Top Trump Administration Official". House Committee on Oversight and Reform. September 10, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  34. ^ "$2,933 for 'Girl's Night': Medicaid chief's consulting expenses revealed". POLITICO. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  35. ^ "Top health official violated federal contracting rules, HHS inspector general finds", Yasmeen Abutaleb 16 July 2020, Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/16/verma-violated-contracting-rules/?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_vermacontracts-205pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans&itid=hp_hp-banner-main_vermacontracts-205pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans
  36. ^ "Inspector general: Medicare chief broke rules on her publicity contracts", Dan Diamon and Adam Cancryn, Politico, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/16/medicare-chief-rules-publicity-contracts-365482
  37. ^ a b "$2,933 for 'Girl's Night': Medicaid chief's consulting expenses revealed". POLITICO. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  38. ^ "$2,933 for 'Girl's Night': Medicaid chief's consulting expenses revealed". POLITICO. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  39. ^ "$2,933 for 'Girl's Night': Medicaid chief's consulting expenses revealed". POLITICO. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  40. ^ a b Williamson, Elizabeth (September 10, 2020). "Investigation of Medicare Chief Exposes Underside of Washington". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  41. ^ "Democratic Committee Leaders Release Report Detailing Abuse of Taxpayer Funds by Top Trump Administration Official". House Committee on Oversight and Reform. September 10, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  42. ^ Cancryn, Adam; Diamond, Dan. "Moderna's vaccine is on the way". POLITICO. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  43. ^ a b "Seema Verma: A Carmel Resident in Charge of American Health Care". Carmel Monthly Magazine. Carmel, Indiana. August 30, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Andy Slavitt
Acting
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
2017–2021
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Richter
Acting