Indian American Seema Verma became the third woman named to President-elect Donald Trump’s administration with her appointment as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“I am pleased to nominate Seema Verma to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said Trump in a statement. “She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems. Together, Chairman (Tom) Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.”
Rep. Price, R-Ga., an orthopedic surgeon, was nominated to be secretary of health and human services.
Verma, the president and founder of Indianapolis, Ind.-based health policy consulting firm SVC Inc., has had close ties with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, R-Ind., since she helped design the state’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion model, known as Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0.
“I am honored to be nominated by President-elect Trump today,” said Verma following the Nov. 28 announcement in a statement. “I look forward to helping him tackle our nation's daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way.”
The Medicare program that she will oversee provides insurance for more than 46 million retirees and senior citizens. Medicaid, which covers the poor, has about 60 million people enrolled in it.
The two programs account for roughly a third of the U.S. population.
Verma will be an integral piece in working on Trump's promise to create a better healthcare program than the Affordable Care Act installed during President Barack Obama's tenure.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, the Indian American served as the Indiana's health reform lead following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
At SVC Inc., Verma has worked on other high-profile Medicaid expansion proposals for Republican governors, including for Gov. Matt Bevin in Kentucky, whose state plan includes a work requirement as a condition of receiving benefits and lockout periods for failure to pay, similar to Indiana’s model.
Prior to consulting, Verma worked for the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Sampat Shivangi, chairman of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and the Mississippi State Department of Mental Health, believes Verma has the track record for success in her new role.
“She's a very smart lady and she has high credentials. She has proved to be a very competent administrator for the state of Indiana and various other states,” Shivangi, who also serves as national president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education and president and CEO of U.S. Info Systems of Mississippi, told India-West. “She has a proven track record. It's a good thing for Trump’s administration, for sure.”
Shivangi did add that, even with her track record, “There's no 100 percent guaranteed solution. Hopefully she'll come up with flying colors.”
The AAPI chairman said he is more confident in Verma than Price to succeed, however, noting that adding three women of color to his administration “speaks high of him. I think he’s heading in the right direction.”
As to what Verma might do while in her new post, Shivangi wasn’t sure, but said, “The state of the federal government has to fill in the shortcomings of Obamacare,” which he said has high deductibles, and Verma’s program “might eliminate” that problem.
Dr. Sudir Parikh, a Republican, concurs with Shivangi that Verma is a great choice.
"She's experienced in the Medicaid and Medicare policies and she's young and has a great perspective of how to cut unnecessary fluff from the Medicaid-Medicare systems," Parikh told India-West, adding that he's confident she'll do great alongside Price in changing and modifying Obamacare.
Parikh believes the top priority for Verma will be to get rid of the state borders, which boost premiums.
"Once (borders are removed and) the competition starts, hopefully the high deductibles will go away," Parikh said. "It will be better for both doctors and patients."
Dr. Ajay Lodha, president of the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin, believes Verma will help the patients with her new programs.
"The Indian community of physicians is very excited by the appointment of an Indian American to this high-level position by President-elect Trump," Lodha said in an IANS report.
"We will support her endeavors," he added in the report. "We expect her to make Medicare more patient-friendly, especially in reforming the part of it that provides medicines."
In addition to Verma, Trump has also tabbed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., despite her critical remarks of Trump during the Republican primaries earlier in the year.
Parikh said the addition of Haley and Verma to Trump’s administration brings “great pride to the Indian American community.”
“Nikki Haley has made a rapid ascent up the Republican Party,” he noted. “And Verma is also a good (appointment) as it encourages young Indian Americans to be part of the government. A lot of youth will see this as an inspiration.”
The third woman named to Trump’s cabinet was former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao who was named transportation secretary.
Both Haley and Chao will be vetted before they can be confirmed during Senate confirmation hearings for the Cabinet-level positions.
(This story, originally published Nov. 29, was updated Nov. 30.)