Who's Medicaid boss Seema Verma? Trump health official 'spent millions of taxpayers' money' to boost her image

Leaders from congressional committees, who revealed results of a probe into Verma’s use of public funds, are demanding her to 'personally reimburse the taxpayers'


                            Who's Medicaid boss Seema Verma? Trump health official 'spent millions of taxpayers' money' to boost her image
Seema Verma (Getty Images)

Congressional Democrats are accusing a top health official in Donald Trump’s regime, Seema Verma, of “extensive abuse” of millions of taxpayers’ money after private consultants billed taxpayers up to $380 per hour for the PR work that uplifted her public image. Leaders from four congressional committees, who on Thursday, September 10, revealed the results of a 17-month investigation into federal agency Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ administrator Verma’s use of public funds, are now demanding her to “personally reimburse the taxpayers for these inappropriate expenditures”.

The report was released by Democratic staffs of two Senate and two House committees. In the report, the Democrats said they had obtained tens of thousands of documents disclosing dozens of contentious billing statements – including that one consultant, Pam Stevens, billed almost $3,000 for work related to setting up a “Girl’s Night to honor the Administrator” at the home of journalist Susan Page. The investigation further found how Stevens, who's done robust work for the GOP, charged up to $330 hourly to follow ideas like asking publications, including 'Oprah Magazine' and 'Garden and Gun' to write articles about Verma.

Administrator at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, Seema Verma, speaks onstage during the TIME 100 Health Summit at Pier 17 on October 17, 2019, in New York City (Getty Images)

 

The report stated that consultants arranged for private meetings between Verma and hosts of Fox News and editors of Woman's Day and Women's Health Magazine. One memo suggested seeking to include Verma on Washingtonian magazine's list of most powerful women. Another document showed contractors billed at least $13,000 to offer Verma's name for awards and several events. The report mentioned Verma brought consultants with her on official travel, even when government aides were there which increased taxpayers' costs. After such startling revelations about the use of public funds in image building, here is what one needs to know about Medicaid boss Seema Verma.

Who is Seema Verma

Born in Virginia in 1970, Verma settled in the greater Indianapolis area. Her husband, Sanjay, runs a medical practice through the Indiana Health Group as per Carmel Monthly magazine. Verma received her Master’s degree in public health with a focus in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University in 1996 and her Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of Maryland in 1993.

Chairman and CEO at Kaiser Permanente, Bernard J Tyson, administrator at Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, Seema Verma, and TIME 100 Health Summit co-chair, Dr David Agus, speak onstage during the TIME 100 Health Summit at Pier 17 on October 17, 2019, in New York City (Getty Images)

 

In an interview given to Carmel Monthly magazine in 2017, Verma expressed her interest in public health. “I’ve always been attracted to government and politics. With my undergraduate work in public health, I just liked the idea of focusing on helping people. At first, I thought that I would focus on medicine, but with public health and policy, there’s a lot that goes on outside the actual delivery of healthcare that influences our health. And I thought that I could make a larger difference in the lives of people being more policy-focused.” In the interview, she mentioned her family’s contribution to public service due to which they miss many personal events but are happy to sacrifice. “We look at our situation as public service. It’s our contribution as a family to the country. There are a lot of sacrifices that we make and a lot of vacations that I haven’t been able to attend, and I do miss out on some of the activities at school, but we really do look at it as public service. As a family, we are inspired by military families that go through something like this all the time and to an even greater degree.”

Verma was nominated by President Trump to be the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2016. As head of CMS, she oversees one of the largest federal agencies that administer vital healthcare programs to over 100 million Americans as per HHS. During her tenure as controller of CMS, an HHS Inspector General concluded that she spent more than $5 million in federal contracts on politically connected contractors and violated federal contracting rules as per a report by Washington Post in July 2020.

US President Donald Trump listens to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, during a Women in Healthcare panel in the Roosevelt Room at the White House March 22, 2017, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

 

Her previous work included the design of the Healthy Indiana Plan, a consumer-driven insurance program for low-income natives. It was also reportedly seen as an alternative to Obamacare. Till 2014, Verma’s SVC has received more than $3.5 million in state contracts as per IndyStar. However, at the same time, Verma was also working for one of the state's largest Medicaid vendors — a division of Silicon Valley tech giant Hewlett-Packard. As per IndyStar, that company agreed to pay Verma more than $1 million and has landed more than $500 million in state contracts during her tenure as Indiana's go-to health-care consultant, as per documents accessed by The Indianapolis Star.

Seema Verma speaks during a swearing-in ceremony, officiated by US vice-president Mike Pence, in the vice-president's ceremonial office at Eisenhower Executive Building on March 14, 2017, in Washington, DC. Verma has been sworn in to be the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the Trump administration (Getty Images)

 

As a result, Verma was mired in controversy for her dual role as a health care consultant for Indiana and working for Hewlett-Packard. Overall, Verma has an experience of over 20 years working with policy and strategic projects. This includes Medicaid, insurance and public health, working with the Governor's offices, State Medicaid agencies, State Health Departments, as well as the federal government, private companies and foundations.

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