Friday, February 17, 2017

Brief Blog: CMS Candidate Seema Verma Testifies at Senate Finance Committee

On February 16, 2017, CMS leadership candidate Seema Verma testified in a nearly three-hour session of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • C-Span archives the entire video here. [*]
  • For a cloud 59-page unoffical transcript of the hearing, annotated and provided by this blog, here.    

  • The Administration's "Transition 2017" Youtube channel has a few brief sound bites online, here.

  • Early coverage at Modern Healthcare, here; at Reuters, here.
  • Opening Statements (Senate Webpage here.)
    • Senate Hatch: here.   Senator Wyden: here.  Verma: here.
    • All together in one PDF (13pp): here.
  • Later coverage at Fox Opinion (here), Becker's (here), CNN (here), and Atlantic (here).

My original November 2016 collation of articles on Verma, including some updates, is here.

More after the break.
Senator Hatch (prepared remarks; paraphrasing and summary is entirely my own, these are not quotations):
  • CMS insures one-third of the US with a trillion dollar budget.
  • Many challenges and your job will be a thankless one.
  • Obamacare has been a wreck.  Exchanges are in bad and worsening shape.
  • Price has proposed a rule to stabilize ACA.
  • Medicaid is a safety net, but is now three times larger than 20 years ago.  We will face difficult choices.
  • Your work on Medicaid innovation may be criticized by Democrats, but was greenlighted by the Obama administration.
  • Medicare will grow from 47M to 80M in 13 years, by 2030.
  • I want treatment of nominees to be less icy, and starting today.  Traditionally, Senators from both parties in a candidate's home state would introduce them.
    • Indiana's senior Senator, Joe Donnelly (elected 2012, Democrat)
    • Indiana's junior Senator, Todd Young (elected 2016, Republican) [**]
Senator Wyden (my own summary):
  • CMS is responsible for 100M Americans' healthcare.  And responsible for much of the ACA.
  • Medicare spends 2.2 billion dollars a day.
  • Rising cost of prescription drugs.
  • Privating Medicare is the wrong direction.
  • Maintain key access and non discrimination clauses of ACA.
  • Don't like this week's new rules from CMS. Enrollment cut to six weeks, and coverage may be less generous at the same costs.
  • Repeal and run, looks impossible.
  • Healthy Indiana had disadvantages; someone making $12,000 a year would be excluded for 6 months if they missed a payment due to emergencies; this happened to 2,5000 people.  "20,000 people were pushed into more expensive plans."
  • In Medicaid, 11M have gained coverage and there are in total 60M people, more than Medicare.
  • Discussion of Verma helping states award contracts to companies she was also a consultant for.
Seema Verma (my own summary):
  • Here with parents, husband, and two children.
  • Two recent medical crises:
    • Mother is a breast cancer survivor.
    • Neighbor had critical illness at age 4 with neuroblastoma but has survived to age 12.
  • Proud to be first-generation American.
    • Father came here, worked his way to four degrees while also supporting family.
    • Mother's mother had 5th grade education, while mother has master's degree.
  • We must focus the trillion-dollar CMS on outcomes.
    • Healthy Indiana was passed in a bipartisan way.
  • Modernize CMS while preventing fraud and abuse.
  • States must have flexibility in a new era.


*  To load on your iPhone for your commute or gym time, CSpan will let you download an MP3 file for 99 cents.

** Although as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence was a highly conservative Republican, and although the state voted 3:2 for Trump, Indiana has had a mix of Democratic and Republican Senators over the past 20 years.  Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar (R) served for 36 years, 1977-2013, e.g. from the Carter to Obama administrations.