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Seema Verma

Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS)

Nominated by Trump: 11-29-2016

Who is Seema Verma?

Since Seema Verma was sworn in as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in March 2017, she has tried to undermine the very things she’s in charge of running. Verma runs federal health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). That means Verma oversees health care for more than 130 million Americans. In her role, Verma is working closely with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to unravel the ACA, as well as push work requirements and other restrictions to take away people’s Medicaid coverage.

Throughout her career, Verma has designed roadblocks to health care coverage for people with low incomes. That includes helping Mike Pence dismantle Medicaid in Indiana; Verma is now known as Pence’s protégé.

When asked if maternity coverage should continue to be required in insurance plans or if women should pay extra for it, Seema Verma said it should be optional for insurers because: “Some women might not want that.”

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Here is what Seema Verma controls

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

CMS oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), providing health care for one in four Americans. CMS also is responsible for managing HealthCare.gov, as well as health care privacy and certain nationwide provider quality standards.

Related Policies


The Health Agenda

Birth Control Coverage

Abortion Coverage

Planned Parenthood

Title X

Refusal Policies

Background on Seema Verma

Doesn’t Support Guaranteed Maternity Coverage

Verma believes maternity coverage should be optional for insurers, and insurers should be able to charge extra for it in their plans. However, treating maternity coverage as an add-on would make plans that include it less affordable and could have negative consequences for women with low incomes, particularly in cases of unplanned pregnancies.

Scary Mommy
Not Heeding Warnings About Taking Away People’s Coverage

Seema Verma ignored a congressional advisory committee’s warnings that her policies on Medicaid, Medicare and the ACA will force people to lose health care coverage and pay more for health care services out-of-pocket — or not get care at all.

Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Center for Children and Families
Emboldening States to ‘Defund’ Planned Parenthood and Exclude It from Medicaid

Under Seema Verma’s direction, CMS rescinded Obama-era guidance, which had made clear that people have the right to use their Medicaid coverage to access preventive care at the provider of their choice, including Planned Parenthood health centers. Now, CMS is emboldening state Medicaid directors to try to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid reimbursement for preventive care services. Texas asked CMS for federal funding to continue such a program, which already resulted in more than 39,000 women losing access to contraceptives. As CMS administrator, Verma gets to decide if taxpayer dollars should support Texas’ failed program and potentially open the floodgates for other states to follow suit.

Health Affairs
Anti-Planned Parenthood Messaging

Seema Verma once said it’s “an important step” to “defund” Planned Parenthood and block patients who rely on federal programs (like Medicaid) from preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers. Preventive care includes birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, STD tests and treatment, and treatment for UTIs and vaginal infections.

Planned Parenthood Action Blog
Thousands of Indianans Lost Medicaid Under Verma’s Policies

Seema Verma is the architect of Mike Pence's signature health care plan when he was governor of Indiana. The Medicaid program that she helped Pence craft in 2014 increased health care costs for Indianans with low incomes. From 2015 to 2017, about 25,000 Indianans lost access to Medicaid — about one-third of those eligible for the program. While experts described the plan as putting people who were struggling to get by at further disadvantage, Verma said she believed poor people need to learn “personal responsibility” and her program would “help” them. Verma now plays a role in how every state administers Medicaid.

Kaiser Health News
Medicaid Block Grants

Seema Verma is planning to let states cap Medicaid spending. Under this “block grant” system, the federal government would give states a fixed amount of funding for Medicaid, instead of picking up the slack when states go over budget on Medicaid costs (such as when there’s a natural disaster). The likely results of block grants: states limiting Medicaid by enrolling fewer people, or offering fewer services, or paying health care providers less (which, in turn, would stop some providers from taking Medicaid patients).

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Seema Verma Gave Several States Green Light for Unprecedented Work Requirements

As of December 2019, Seema Verma has approved requests from four states to impose Medicaid work requirements. In addition, 11 states plan to impose work requirements once they get approval, and more states are expected to follow. The main outcome of the work requirements is not that people are getting new jobs, but rather that people are losing coverage. In Arkansas, over 18,000 people lost coverage while the state's requirements were in place — about one-third of enrollees subject to the new requirements. 

Limiting Health Care Access for Women of Color with Low Incomes

Seema Verma’s position of power and anti-women’s health stance will affect a lot of women — including a disproportionate share of women of color, who use public programs more often due to systemic racism and barriers to health care. Medicare and Medicaid are the two programs that provide the most health care to women of all ages. One out of every five American women of reproductive age uses Medicaid for access to primary and reproductive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, and maternity care.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Using Millions of Taxpayer Dollars to Make Her Look Good

Seema Verma used millions of federal funds to hire external Republican communications consultants to bolster her public image. Traditionally, CMS only used consultants for advertising open enrollment nationwide — but Verma made millions of dollars of cuts to those initiatives.

Planning to Dismantle Medicaid Early On

Her first day in office, Seema Verma sent a letter to governors saying she planned to let states charge people with low incomes for Medicaid coverage and cut them from coverage if they’re not working.

Washington Post
Buddy-Buddy with Mike Pence

Seema Verma is extremely tight with Vice President Mike Pence, who urged President Trump to appoint her to head up the CMS. Veema worked so closely and so well with Pence when he was the governor of Indiana that he presented her with an award for her work.

Indiana Abroad
Asking Taxpayers to Cover Nearly $50,000 for Her Jewelry

While promoting her agenda to take away health care from people most in need, Seema Verma reported that tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry was stolen from her. At first she said the theft was $20,000 worth of jewelry, clothing and other luxury items — but when she filed a claim to HHS, she asked for $47,000 in reimbursement. Her claims for stolen luxury goods included $325 for a moisturizer and $5,900 for an Ivanka Trump-brand pendant. Meanwhile, the average cost of a year-long Medicaid enrollee is $5,700. 

What Are Work Requirements?

Work requirements for Medicaid coverage make people not only work a certain number of hours per month, but also regularly report their activities — or else lose their coverage.  Many people who’d lose Medicaid because of work requirements are actually working or trying to work, but have irregular hours, can’t navigate tedious reporting procedures (often due to lack of internet access and language barriers), or simply do not know about the new requirements. 

Greenlighting Texas’s Backdoor “Defund”

On the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, HHS decided to let Texas receive federal Medicaid funding for a state program that bars patients in the program from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood and other health centers that also provide abortion. This move upends longstanding federal law.  In the past, the federal government has refused to fund state Medicaid programs that aim to take away the right of Medicaid users to choose whatever qualified reproductive health care provider they want.  

Planned Parenthood Blog