KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Trump’s Pick To Head CMS Moves To Full Senate Floor

Seema Verma, a consultant who helped design Vice President Mike Pence's Medicaid expansion in Indiana, is expected to be confirmed.

The Washington Post: CMS Nominee Moves On A Party-Line Vote Toward Confirmation
A sharply divided Senate Finance Committee on Thursday morning recommended the confirmation of Seema Verma, a health-care consultant who has reshaped Medicaid in several states, to run the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. On a vote of 13 to 12, with every Democrat in opposition, Verma’s nomination now moves to the full Senate, where the Republican majority has been moving swiftly to give its seal of approval to each of President Trump’s nominees who have come to a floor vote. (Goldstein, 3/2)

The Associated Press: Trump’s Nominee To Run Medicare And Medicaid Advances
Verma would head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, an agency that oversees health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans. Known as CMS, it’s also responsible for administering the Obama-era health care law that Trump has vowed to repeal and replace. She’s a protégé of Vice President Mike Pence, after designing a Medicaid expansion along conservative lines for Indiana when he was governor. Her consulting business has about a dozen staffers, and if confirmed, she would run an agency with nearly 6,500 employees. (3/2)

Morning Consult: Senate Finance Committee Sends Trump’s CMS Nominee To Floor
If confirmed by the full Senate, Verma is expected to play an influential role in the GOP’s effort to reform both entitlement programs. During her confirmation hearing last month, Verma declined to weigh in on Republican proposals to cut Medicaid spending by changing the funding mechanism for states to block grants or per capita caps. (Reid, 3/2)

Reuters: Senate Committee Backs Trump Pick To Run Medicare, Medicaid
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement that addressing the challenges facing Medicare and Medicaid will require a strong partnership with the administration. Verma, he said, "will help facilitate that partnership and as we work to repeal and replace Obamacare, she will play a vital role in realigning the focus on patient-centered solutions." (Clarke, 3/2)

The Hill: Senate Panel Approves Pick For Medicaid And Medicare Chief 
Reforming Medicare and Medicaid has been a top priority for Republicans as they seek to bring down costs for the programs. Democrats opposing her nomination said she didn't answer their questions about what she would do with the programs. At her hearing last month, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) suggested Verma had "constraints" placed on her regarding how she could respond to sensitive questions. "I'm sorry that you have the constraints put on you so that you can't answer these questions forthrightly," Nelson said. (Hellmann, 3/2)

In other administration news —

Stat: Price’s New Chief Of Staff Comes From Health Care Lobbying Firm
A lobbyist with one of the nation’s largest health care practices was named chief of staff to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Lance Leggitt, who oversaw health care lobbying at Baker Donelson for 11 years, now returns to HHS, where he worked during the George W. Bush administration. Leggitt also served as White House senior health policy adviser to Bush during his second term. (Kaplan, 3/2)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.