resigning ‘a dereliction of responsibility’ amid Covid

Seema Verma, Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.

Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Seema Verma has never considered stepping down from her job as director of the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, even after several Trump administration officials resigned against the president’s encouragement to protest a crowd of angry protesters.

“Given my location, as we are in the middle of a pandemic, I felt it would be a violation of my duty and commitment to the agency and the people we serve, to leave my post and without doing it to care.” a smooth transition to the Biden government, “Verma said in an interview Wednesday when the House opened a debate on the charges against the president for the second time.

The administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which provide health insurance to the elderly, disabled, and poor Americans, is one of the government’s closest allies with Vice President Mike Pence, who has worked with him since serving as a health advisor to Indiana Governor.

Verma declined to comment on the conversations she has had with Pence over the past few days as tensions between President Donald Trump and his Vice President have leaked to the public. Last week, she told Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS that she had been rejected by the way the vice president was treated outside and inside the administration, sources told NBC News.

“It was very disturbing. And it was very, very difficult to watch,” she said of the attack on the Capitol after witnessing events from her office window overlooking the complex.

Touting successes

Verma says that in her final days as an administrator, she continues to focus on ensuring a smooth transition to Biden administration. She has also tried to highlight her agency’s accomplishments over the past four years, including the smooth running of the Obamacare market, despite the Trump administration pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We made changes to to make it a better experience for the customer. We optimized the applications. We gave states that had a direct impact on their rewards more than 15 exemptions and reduced them significantly “, she said. “We managed the stock exchanges better than before.”

Verma resists accusations from critics that the Trump administration also presided over a drop in enrollments for exchanges after cutting funding for contacting consumers during open enrollment.

“We have been actively and extensively looking at health plans to get them back on the market,” she says. She found that she had reduced administrative costs by spending more efficiently. “And because of this efficiency, we were actually able to lower the usage fee.”

Advice to the successor

Some of the things she is most proud of include the actions her agency took during the pandemic to ensure Americans on Medicare and Medicaid get free access to Covid tests and vaccines, as well as calling for more price transparency through hospitals. Starting this month, hospitals are required to publish prices for procedures and provide consumers with an estimate of their actual cost.

“I think these are major changes that will have an impact for many, many years to come,” she said.

Verma says she hasn’t thought about her next move. She joked that she told her husband that she was about to be “a trophy woman” for a while.

Her advice to her successor – use the job to make an impact.

“It’s one of the biggest muscles the federal government has on the health system. And they shouldn’t underestimate the authority and power of CMS and the actions the team is doing to influence the health system,” she said.

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