Capitol Correspondence - 10.28.19

Medicaid Work Requirements Discussed During House Hearing with CMS Administrator Verma

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As an update on last week’s notice that the House Energy and Commerce Committee summoned Seema Verma, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), for a hearing, we share this item from Politico Pulse:

“The CMS administrator made her first appearance before a Democrat-led congressional committee yesterday, more than 2.5 years after being confirmed. The Washington consensus: Verma came out a winner in her tussle with the House Energy and Commerce oversight panel.

— House Democrats likely had one shot at Verma this year — and they mostly missed the opportunity to publicly press her for new information, instead lecturing Verma on the Trump administration’s policies and relitigating decisions that they framed as health care sabotage. Members like Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) didn’t even ask Verma a question within their allotted five-minute time.

— Verma’s standout exchanges were with JOE KENNEDY, as the Massachuetts Democrat hammered Verma over the science behind her Medicaid work requirement policy, a reprise of his questions to HHS Secretary Alex Azar in March. See video. [ANCOR note: we have shared concerns about Medicaid work requirements potential to affect people with disabilities and the workers who support them in the past.]

‘They still have zero evidence that work requirements make people healthier,’ Kennedy told PULSE after the hearing, daring Verma, Azar or other Trump appointees to return and offer more clarity to the committee. ‘If you have confidence in the policies you’re implementing, you shouldn’t feel the need to hide from the public.’

Kennedy also challenged Verma on why she steered millions of dollars toward GOP communications consultants, referencing POLITICO reporting. Verma defended the decision — which has sparked a probe from the HHS inspector general — as consistent with CMS policy.

— Meanwhile, Republicans praised Verma’s performance at CMS, and allies took to social media to defend her. Democrats’ attacks on Verma for backing new short-term health plans as ‘junk’ were ‘without merit,’ writes Brian Blase, the former White House official who helped steer the policy.

In her testimony, the CMS chief also rebutted attacks over why children have been dropped from the Medicaid rolls. ‘There are major problems in Medicaid eligibility,’ Verma said. ‘I can tell you I saw data yesterday.’”