Senior DHHS Official Outlines Vision to Reset Federal-State Relationship on Medicaid

Today Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), spoke to the state Medicaid directors at their fall conference in Washington, D.C. She outlined her vision for the future of Medicaid and unveiled a number of new CMS policies during that speech and in this press release.

“Our vision for the future of Medicaid is to reset the federal-state relationship and restore the partnership, while at the same time modernizing the program to deliver better outcomes for the people we serve,” Verma said in the press release. “We need to ensure that we are building a Medicaid program that is sound and solvent to help all beneficiaries reach their highest potential.”

She pledged to give states more freedom to design innovative programs and to remove federal impediments that stand in the way of states.  

Verma discussed the new, streamlined approach that CMS will take on Section 1115 Medicaid waivers, intended to increase transparency and efficiency and reduce administrative burdens on states. The new approach was announced earlier in the week in two Medicaid information bulletins, that can be accessed here.

“Every American deserves the dignity and respect of high expectations and as public officials we should deliver programs that instill hope and say to each beneficiary that we believe in their potential,” she said in the press release. “CMS believes that meaningful work is essential to beneficiaries’ economic self-sufficiency, self-esteem, well-being, and health of Americans.”

During Verma’s remarks to the state directors, she made it clear the CMS will consider waiver proposals that promote community engagement and work activities.

The federal government will also be developing Medicaid and CHIP scorecards, Verma said, that will track state and federal Medicaid outcomes. The scorecards, in the early stages of development, will demonstrate to taxpayers that their tax dollars are being spent appropriately and yielding positive results and improved health outcomes.

Verma stated that the administration will not be content with “the hollow victory of numbers covered [in the program].”

“For those unable to care for themselves, we will create sustainable programs that will always be there to provide the care you need, to provide choices and allow you to live as independently as possible. For those that just need a hand up, we will provide you the opportunity to take charge of your health care and assist and empower you to rise out of poverty and government dependence to create a better life for yourselves and your family.”

Verma has been rumored to be a possible pick to head the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services after the resignation of Secretary Tom Price. She was a consultant to the state of Indiana under Gov. Pence and chief architect of the state’s Medicaid waiver, called HIP 2.0.

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