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Rediff.com  » News » Seema Verma: The Indian-American in-charge of remaking US health care policy

Seema Verma: The Indian-American in-charge of remaking US health care policy

Last updated on: March 15, 2017 18:43 IST

Seema Verma, who was confirmed by the US Senate on a vote of 55-43, will play a key role in the Trump administration's bid to repeal and replace Obamacare and head the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, which provides health services to 130 million people.

Seema Verma

IMAGE: Seema Verma signs the affidavit of appointment during her swearing-in ceremony, officiated by US Vice President Mike Pence, left, as her family -- from right, husband Sanjay, daughter Maya and son Shaan look on. Photograph: @VP/Twitter.com.

 

On March 14, a day after the United States Senate confirmed her as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Indian-American Seema Verma was sworn in to the top health care position in the Trump administration by US Vice President Mike Pence.

The Pence protégé, who was described by the White House as "unquestionably qualified", was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 55-43.

Verma, a health policy consultant, is known as the architect of health care reforms in several states, including Indiana. She will head the $1 trillion CMS, which provides health services to 130 million people, and play a key role in Donald Trump's bid to "repeal and replace" the affordable healthcare of his predecessor Barack Obama.

Verma is the second Indian-American in the Trump Administration to be confirmed by the Senate; US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was the first Indian-American Cabinet rank official to serve in any presidential administration.

The Senate vote on Verma's confirmation was mostly on party lines.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that she was extremely qualified with a health policy background and a record of success: "She is committed to protecting Medicare and modernising Medicaid so the programmes deliver the best results for those who need it. She also understands the challenges that Obamacare has created for families." 

Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said, "Verma's knowledge and leadership abilities will serve the American people well at CMS, an agency that touches the lives of millions every day. She will play an important role as we work to repeal and replace Obamacare, and put in place health care reforms that work for the American people."

In a speech on the Senate floor, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said Verma was especially qualified to lead CMS and modernise its programmes to increase the effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

"She brings the experience and, importantly, bipartisan solutions that can and should unite people across the political spectrum in addressing some of the greatest challenges in our healthcare system. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting Ms Verma's nomination to this important position," he said.

However, Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American Senator voted against Verma: "I voted no on Seema Verma to head Medicare and Medicaid. I disagree with her ideas to cap and cut Medicaid and her views on maternity coverage."  

Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, also voted along party lines.

"During the confirmation process, I was not satisfied by Ms Verma's answers to key questions regarding the future of these programmes," he said.

"CMS accounts for one-quarter of the federal government's spending, and these programmes face difficult and complex challenges that will only get worse if this administration succeeds in taking insurance away from millions of Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act," he added.

Administering the oath of office to Verma, Pence said, "President Donald Trump has chosen one of the leading experts in America on state-based healthcare solutions to lead this important agency."

"The President has asked you to bring your expertise to DC,” he added. "We're confident that you'll help restore healthcare decision making to the states, and in the process help make the best healthcare system in the world even better."

Verma, who was sworn in with her hand on a version of the Bhagavad Gita, said, "Today, our healthcare stands at a crossroads, and we have no choice but to reform it."

Scroll down for more images from the ceremony.

Seema Verma

IMAGE:  The ceremony was held in the US Vice President's ceremonial office at the Eisenhower Executive Building on March 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Photograph: @VP/Twitter.com.

Seema Verma

IMAGE: Verma, whose parents came to the US as immigrants, took her oath with her hand on Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, a version of the holy Hindu text, Bhagavad Gita. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

Seema Verma

IMAGE: Pence said that Verma helped design "the much-heralded healthy Indiana Plan 2.0." which today "is leading the nation with its emphasis on personal responsibility and effective care for people who need it most". Photograph: @VP/Twitter.com.

Seema Verma

IMAGE: Verma thanked her "good friend Vice President Pence for believing in me." Photograph: @VP/Twitter.com.
The Rediff News Bureau / Rediff.com
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