It appears President Donald Trump’s pick to run the government’s major health insurance programs said yesterday that Medicaid needs a full makeover, but she doesn’t support turning Medicare into a “voucher” plan. Which, you know, makes it seem like she doesn’t actually understand what Medicare is.
Seema Verma, Indiana health care consultant, spoke before the Senate Finance Committee on her nomination to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS–which is a $1 trillion agency that oversees programs that cover about 1 out of 3 Americans. That’s a lot of Americans.
The 46-year-old designed a Medicaid expansion plan for Indiana when Pence was governor. It seems her hearing left a lot to be desired for many, including Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the panel, who said it was “a missed opportunity for the nominee.” While many Republicans praised her, two GOP senators said they were concerned that changing Medicaid could leave tens of thousands uninsured.
Medicaid, which is the federal-state program for people in low-income households, currently covers more than 70 million Americans. This means pregnant women, moms, families, and the elderly are all covered by it. Under the Obama-era health law, it was expanded to cover more low-income adults. However, the current plan from House Republicans is simple: They want to cap federal financing and turn control of Medicaid over to the states. This basically translates to eliminating requirements from Washington–which could mean limiting actual care.
Verma stated that Medicaid can do better:
“The status quo is not acceptable. We can do a better job … we know we are not delivering great health outcomes.
I am endorsing the program being changed to make (it) work better for the citizens that rely on it.”
The Medicaid expansion Verma designed in Indiana uses financial rewards and penalties to direct low-income residents to primary care providers rather than the emergency room. However, many critics believe it is confusing for beneficiaries, citing people receive penalties when they actually shouldn’t. Verma went on to say:
“I’m not supportive” of turning it into a voucher plan. That’s a term used by critics to describe a proposal under which retirees would get a fixed payment to purchase coverage from government-regulated private insurance plans.
Prominent advocates include House Speaker Paul Ryan and newly confirmed health secretary Tom Price. They call it “premium support.”
It is unclear whether or not Verma supports Medicare negotiating drug prices directly with manufacturers–and when asked if she supports the law’s requirement that insurance plans cover maternity and newborn care, she gave a rather flippant answer, stating: “some women might not choose that.”
Um, excuse me? What? What woman doesn’t want maternity care? Even if a woman decides to go back to work, it’s insane not cover some type of care and time off from work after having a baby. Regardless of whether a woman gave birth naturally or if a couple adopts, having a child is not only a lot of work, but a part of life that requires time off from work to acclimate the child and parents.
As of now, a Finance Committee vote on Verma’s nomination is not expected for at least a week. It seems like she will be approved, which may not be good news for families and moms.