After being confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Indian American Seema Verma placed her hand on the Bhagavad-Gita as she was sworn into her new role.
Verma, who was confirmed by the Senate in a 55-43 vote March 13, was sworn in by fellow Indiana resident Vice President Mike Pence March 14.
Pence played a large part in endorsing Verma for the post. She is likely to play a key role in the healthcare reform of President Donald Trump, who has made a priority to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act put into place by former President Barack Obama.
In Indiana, Verma, who has a background in public health, designed a Medicaid expansion along conservative lines for Pence, according to Associated Press reports.
Most beneficiaries are required to pay modest premiums. And the program uses financial rewards and penalties to steer patients to primary care providers instead of the emergency room. Critics say the plan has been confusing for beneficiaries and some have incurred penalties through no fault of their own, the AP reported.
At her Senate confirmation hearing, Verma defended her approach by saying that low-income people are fully capable of making health care decisions based on rational incentives, it said.
She also said she does not support turning Medicare into a voucher plan under which retirees would get a fixed federal contribution to purchase private coverage from government-regulated private insurance plans, the AP said.
Her boss, HHS Secretary Tom Price, is a prominent advocate of such an approach. Medicare covers more than 56 million seniors and disabled people, according to the AP report.
“President Donald Trump has chosen one of the leading experts in America on state-based healthcare solutions to lead this important agency,” Pence said at the swearing-in ceremony at the White House.
“The president has asked you to bring your expertise to D.C.,” the vice president said. “We’re confident that you’ll help restore healthcare decision making to the states, and in the process help make the best healthcare system in the world even better.”
Verma, following the ceremony, spoke of her plans to fix the current healthcare system.
“Today, our health care stands at a crossroads and we have no choice but to fix our health care system. Under President Trump's leadership and vision, we finally have an incredible opportunity to move our health care system into one that puts Americans in charge of their health care and will ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care that they can afford,” she said.