Seema Verma Confirmed as CMS Administrator

The Senate Finance Committee approved Seema Verma for top CMS post.

Seema Verma, a favorite of Vice President Mike Spence and the Trump administration's pick will be the new head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

She is an Indiana-based health-care consultant. The full Senate vote was 55 to 43, a wider margin that of an earlier 13 to 12 confirmation vote by the Senate Finance Committee.

Verma, who has a public health background, will head an agency with a $1 trillion budget and which will be at the crux of GOP efforts to enact a new health insurance plan and to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats have opposed the choice, saying that Verma's answers to their questions in the confirmation were too vague for them to understand what her views are.

But the GOP members of the finance commitee have praised her for her performance in Indiana where she designed a system that gives Medicaid recipients a type of health savings account known as a Personal Wellness and Responsibility account to apply toward a $2,500 deductible for care in the Healthy Indiana Plan.

Both her backers and detractors predict she will promote similar plans for Medicaid.

Verma has said her overall mission is to improve health for Medicaid patients.

Medicare changes are a bigger and potentially more controversial issue.

Since Medicare reimbursement rates and coverage decisions are often used as benchmarks for private insurers, the post will be pivotal. The Trump administration has pledged to cut Medicare costs, though Verma has said she opposes a Conservative proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher plan. That plan would give beneficiaries a stipend to use to purchase health insurance.

That could be a conflict with Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MD, who has endorsed that voucher plan.