CMS Nominee Verma Supports Making Maternity Coverage Optional

Seema Verma, President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said on Thursday that insurers should not have to provide maternity coverage, as is now required under the Affordable Care Act.

Asked by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) at her confirmation hearing, Verma said women should be able to choose between health plans that offer maternity coverage and others that do not. Under Obamacare, all health plans are required to provide maternity coverage.

“Obviously I don’t want to see women being discriminated against. I’m a woman and I appreciate that,” Verma told members of the Senate Finance Committee. “But I also think that women have to make the decisions that work best for them and their family. Some women might want maternity coverage. Some women might not want it.”

Other than maternity coverage, Verma offered few opinions on health policy. She said she would review the rule the Trump administration proposed on Wednesday that would tighten the open enrollment period for 2018. Verma also declined to weigh in on the GOP debate over funding Medicaid programs with block grants or on a per capita basis.

If confirmed, Verma would be in charge of the nation’s two largest government health programs. Her measured answers at times frustrated Democrats.

“I can’t vote for someone to be the administrator of one of the most significant agencies that affects the health care of people in the country if I cannot glean from you in an open hearing under oath what your answers are to these questions,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said at one point.

Verma, a health policy consultant, worked with then-Gov. Mike Pence to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The expansion program, called HIP 2.0, requires enrollees to contribute payments to health accounts on a monthly basis.

With Republicans holding a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Verma’s confirmation is likely.


Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The Trump administration released its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which calls for $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. The plan takes aim at popular farm programs and student aid, and relies on clearing two major legislative hurdles – savings from the repeal of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and projected economic growth from overhauling the U.S. tax code for the first time in more than 30 years.

Washington Brief: Montana GOP Candidate in Today’s Special Election Charged With Assaulting Journalist

Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate in a special House election in Montana, was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly assaulting a journalist who was asking him about the recent Congressional Budget Office estimate of the American Health Care Act. Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist in today’s election to fill the seat left vacant by Ryan Zinke, who now serves as head of the Interior Department.

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