March 13, 2017

Van Hollen Statement in Opposition to Confirmation of Seema Verma to Lead Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen submitted the following statement to the congressional record in opposition to the confirmation of Seema Verma to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

"Mr. President, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, is a major part of the Department of Health and Human Services. A third of the Nation - more than 100 million Americans - get access to quality health care through CMS's programs - Medicare, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. And CMS also includes the Center for Medicare and Medicare Innovation and several other activities to improve access and affordability in our Nation's health system for all Americans - regardless of income, gender, or health status.

"President Trump, Secretary Price, and Congressional Republicans seek to drastically restructure our Nation's healthcare, threatening to leave millions without coverage. In the face of that threat, we need a CMS Administrator who knows how to lead CMS and is willing to do whatever she can to protect Americans' healthcare. After hearing from several organizations that deal directly with CMS and familiarizing myself with President Trump's nominee, "I cannot support the nomination of Seema Verma for this important role.

"Mrs. Verma does not have the experience or appropriate knowledge needed to head this vital agency. Her limited scope of experience with just Medicaid, lack of familiarity with Medicare, and willingness to restructure CMS's rules that protect millions are cause for deep concern.

"If confirmed, Mrs. Verma would manage 85 percent of the HHS's $1 trillion budget, which in turn is more than a quarter of the Federal Government's. And Mrs. Verma would oversee 4,000 employees. Running CMS requires significant experience with healthcare, and is best done by a person who has held significant positions in private industry and government.

"But nothing in Mrs. Verma's career shows her to have the skills to operate a budget or team of this magnitude. She has never managed a large organization, and has little experience with Medicare. Mrs. Verma has operated a small, 10-person company, SVC Inc., and consulted on various state Medicaid programs. Her experience is inadequate for the important role for which President Trump nominated her.

"The next CMS administrator will have an important voice forming healthcare policy. HHS Secretary Price has been on the forefront of efforts to slash Medicaid and turn Medicare into a voucher program. President Trump, Secretary Price, and Congressional Republicans have made it a priority to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We need a CMS Administrator who will provide a reality check in the face of these reckless proposals. We need a CMS Administrator who will work to uphold President Trump's promise that "there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

"Mrs. Verma, however, could not make that commitment during her Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing. To the contrary, during her hearing, Mrs. Verma expressed openness to block-granting Medicaid or instilling per-capita caps - putting the coverage of nearly 70 million vulnerable Americans at stake. These policies would end the Federal guarantee of matching funds to states and would dramatically cut Federal funding to states. Analyzing a 2012 Congressional Republican block grant proposal, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that for states to manage their Medicaid programs at reduced funding levels, they would have to limit Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits, cut payment rates, or increase out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. These proposals would result in the denial of health care and long-term care to millions of vulnerable Americans.

"We need a leader at CMS who will defend the historic gains of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act set standards for consumer protection and significantly expanded coverage. Repeal could cause 22 million Americans, and 400,000 Marylanders, to lose quality, affordable health coverage. Repeal would imperil new access to life-saving substance-use-disorder and mental health treatment. Repeal would endanger coverage for children who now have access to comprehensive health services. And repeal could significantly raise premiums and erode consumer protections for Americans who have coverage outside of the Marketplace.

"Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must provide maternity care as an essential health benefit. But during her nomination hearing, Mrs. Verma said that while some women want maternity coverage, "some women might not choose that," signaling her view that the law should not require insurance companies to provide this critical coverage. This is unacceptable. Mrs. Verma's position would put the health of mothers and families at risk and drive up costs for plans that did provide the coverage. We will not turn back the clock to when maternity coverage was optional. We need an administrator who will stand with mothers and families on this issue.

"Because of Mrs. Verma's lack of adequate healthcare experience and her willingness to consider rash policies that are far out of the mainstream, I do not believe that she is equipped to appropriately advise the President and Secretary on these policies that affect millions of Americans. I will not support her nomination to head CMS."