Indian-American Seema Verma has been confirmed for a top healthcare position in the Donald Trump administration, in a vote in the US Senate that she clinched 55-43. A former healthcare policy consultant with both private sector and government experience, Verma will manage the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and play a key role in President Trump’s plan of overhauling the Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act.
The $1 trillion agency that Verma will head manages insurance programs for more than 130 million Americans, according to a report in America’s Indianapolis Star.
Verma is viewed as being close to vice-president Mike Pence, who served as governor of the Indiana state before moving to Washington. A Masters degree holder from the John Hopkins University, Verma is credited with carrying out healthcare reforms in several states including Indiana.
Verma’s vote was welcomed by the Republican Party. The Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, noted the Indian-American’s successful credentials as he expressed confidence in her abilities to match up to expectations of her new role.
McConnell was quoted as saying by US media, “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.”
The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Richard Burr, said on Verma’s appointment, “Ms 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.”
Her vote was, however, opposed by many Democrats, the most prominent among them being fellow Indian-American senator Kamala Harris. Harris, the first India-American Senator ever in the US, said “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.”
Her stand on “streamlining” Obamacare to make it more “effective,” which is essentially Trump’s position, may make her job profile a controversial one in the new administration. Millions of working class Americans rely on the subsidies afforded by the Obamacare to pay their medical bills, and any effort to tweak with it may not be taken well, mostly among Democrat supporters.
Second Indian-American to be nominated for a post in the Donald Trump administration
Verma is the second Indian-origin person to be confirmed for a post under Donald Trump, the first being US’ ambassador to the United Nations and a former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley.
Verma’s appointment is expected to send an encouraging signal in America’s Indian community which of late has faced at least two racially-motivated attacks at the hands of White Americans. Many in India and the US have blamed these attacks on Trump’s incendiary rhetoric on immigrants during his election campaign, a charge that White House has denied.
While Verma’s had a largely flawless record professionally, there were questions raised nevertheless during her stint as healthcare consultant for the Indiana government in 2014. She was also an employee at Hewlett-Packard, an American technology company that was awarded contracts by Indiana, at the time.
According to a news report, Hewlett-Packard was awarded contracts worth $500 million by the state authorities and Verma’s income was nearly $1 million during the same period, raising conflict of interest allegations.