Seema Verma, President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, testified at a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday that she would make the changes needed to make sure health care is accessible to all Americans.
“I have never stood on the sidelines of our nation’s health care debate merely pointing out what is wrong with our health care system,” Verma said.
Verma, who runs a health policy consulting firm in Indiana and designed the Healthy Indiana Plan, was joined by her parents, husband and two children. She was introduced by Indiana Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young.
“Working collaboratively to help Hoosiers get access to quality health care is something Ms. Verma and I have had the opportunity to do together,” Donnelly, a Democrat, said.
Young, a Republican, said Verma would bring to the administrator's role the exact experience and attitude it needs.
“President Trump simply could not have made a better choice in selecting Seema to lead what is arguably the most important office within (the Department of Health and Human Services),” he said.
Young also praised Verma for her commitment during her 20-year career to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to help more people get access to health care.
“She transformed a complex, rigid Medicaid system to one where Hoosiers are back in control of their health care needs,” Young said.
Verma began her career advocating for national policies that would benefit people with HIV/AIDS and improve birth outcomes of low-income mothers. She said she wants to continue to make health care more accessible to all Americans.
When asked for her thoughts on policy changes to help lower health care costs for seniors and other consumers, Verma said she would support efforts to empower people to make the best choices for themselves.
Verma was also questioned about a report in the Indianapolis Star on a possible conflict of interest stemming from her involvement with Indiana’s Medicaid program. The report said she and her consulting firm, SVC Inc., took in more than $3.5 million in state contracts while also doing work for a division of Hewlett Packard that is one of Indiana's biggest Medicare vendors.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pointed out that while Indiana's regulations on ethics did not technically apply to Verma because she was a contractor and not a state employee, he wondered how it was not a conflict for Verma.
Verma replied that she adheres to a high ethical standard as part of her personal philosophy and that her firm sought ethical counsel to ensure there were no issues.
“We were transparent,” she said. “The state knew about our relationships.”
Verma said her firm recused itself whenever there was potential for a conflict of interest.