Capitol Correspondence - 02.17.17

Senate Finance Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing on CMS Administrator Nominee

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On February 16, the Senate Finance Committee held a nomination hearing for Seema Verma for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The hearing covered a broad array of topics in both Medicare and Medicaid. Of particular interest for providers are the discussions pertaining to block grants. Asked multiple times whether she supported block grants, Verma answered that the status quo was unacceptable for many vulnerable populations and that she would pursue any proposals that would improve outcomes. This included block grants and per-capita caps.

At one point Verma said, “What we have today doesn’t work well.” Later, in response to a question from a Senator, she said, “What I support is the program working better, and whether that’s a block grant or per capita cap, there are many ways that we can get there.”

She also stated that she views Medicaid services as divided between two groups – vulnerable groups such as the elderly, blind, and disabled, and the able-bodied group. When pressed on whether “able-bodied” low income individuals should be covered by Medicaid, Verma restated that she believed that all people should have “access” to health care, but would not commit to keeping the population covered by the Medicaid expansion covered through Medicaid. Her overall position on Medicaid centered around ensuring “a new era of state flexibility” that would improve outcomes and access while increasing accountability.

If Verma passes through the Committee, as is expected, the next step will be a full vote by the Senate. Video of the hearing is available here