With Verma in place, it’s time to get to work
WASHINGTON – Seema Verma, the new CMS administrator, is a relative unknown as far as HME is concerned, but stakeholders say having new leadership in place offers new opportunities to press forward on a host of issues.
“I’m excited to see that she’s been confirmed so we can get to work with her and the rest of the CMS staff to extend the interim relief for rural suppliers that was part of the Cures Act,” said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare president and CEO. “We also want to engage CMS on longer-term improvements for future rounds of the bidding program and other HME public policy priorities.”
The Senate on March 13 voted 55-43 to approve Verma’s nomination. Verma, the president, CEO and founder of SVC, an Indianapolis-based national health policy consulting company, will oversee a $1 trillion agency that serves more than 100 million Americans that access healthcare services through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Marketplace.
Verma’s biggest claim to fame: redesigning Indiana’s Medicaid program. She expanded eligibility but required recipients to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts and receive incentives for healthy behavior.
“Feedback from Indiana folks is that the system worked compared to the other systems that were failing,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.“It was a patient-centric approach, so that falls in line with Dr. Price’s approach.”
While Tom Price, the new Health and Human Services Secretary,is a long-time industry champion and outspoken critic of Medicare,Verma has little experience with the program. Still, her background with Medicaid should translate well to the HME industry, says Ryan.
“She’s certainly aware of the important role that HME plays in allowing patients to remain in their homes and avoid more costly clinical interventions,” he said.
At a Feb. 16 hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Verma said that one-size-fits-all approaches to healthcare, like CMS’s competitive bidding program, don’t always work and that it’s important to understand how policies impact providers.
“We don't want to see that our policies and our programs are actually preventing providers—that we're losing providers and that they don't want to see Medicaid or Medicare beneficiaries anymore,” she said. “So, we'll be very careful with policies so that we're not pushing providers out of the system, but that we're actually attracting providers to the program.”
While stakeholders say they look forward to working with Verma and Price, that won’t happen right away, thanks to a mandate from President Trump that restricts federal agencies from communicating with the public, says Gallagher.
“They can’t have meetings,” he said. “We’re still really working through members of Congress to arm them with information, as they work with the bureaucracy within CMS.”