The confirmation of Seema Verma, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the federal agency Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will mean that poor people will have to pay more for healthcare. However, she will need a green signal before she can head to the post as ethics experts say she has conflicted with public duties.
Verma helped design Mike Pence's approach to the Medicaid program for the poor in Indiana, under which beneficiaries had to pay premiums or lose the benefit. She has also aggressively worked to privatize the program, which provides health care to about 600,000 people.
Ethics experts have opposed her nomination as her confirmation will mean that other Republican states will adopt Indiana’s Medicaid policy which will force poor people to pay for medical care. Under the healthcare policy, if participants miss payments they are not given coverage for six months. This means people remain without insurance for that period of time.
According to an investigation, her consulting firm, SVC Inc. which is based in Indianapolis, made millions while working under Hewlett-Packard from at least nine states. Ethics experts debate that through her policy decisions as a consultant, she may have prioritized the interests of her consultancy firm company while working with taxpayers’ money.
However, according to a statement, Verma has said that she is all set to sell her business within 90 days of her confirmation.
“Her firm was completely transparent in regards to its relationship with HP and that there was never a conflict of interest," said Marcus Barlow, spokesman for Verma.
Her nomination was welcomed by Republicans but it was opposed by Democrats who are aware of her consultancy business and worried if she will be able to handle and lead a large organization.
Former President George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, opposed her nomination and called it a “conflict of interest” that should definitely not happen.
Debra Minot, a former head of Indiana's Family and Social Services Agency, who has worked with Verma also, has similar views. “It was never clear to me until that moment that she, in essence, was representing both the agency and one of our very key contractors,” she said.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families said, “The ideologically driven rules are just bad health policy. Forcing people to remain uninsured for six months is too high a price to pay for missing a deadline.”
Medicaid expansion ideas suggested by Verma would start a debate if Republicans move to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pull federal funding from it.
Banner/Thumbnail Cedits : Reuters