The Senate Finance Committee today will likely help move President Trump’s nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) one step closer to confirmation. During a Wednesday morning session, the committee is set to vote on the nomination of Seema Verma, an Indiana-based health care consultant who is perhaps best known for her work to reform that state’s Medicaid program. In a statement announcing the planned vote, the committee’s chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) pointed to Verma’s “extensive private sector experience” and her “clear vision for addressing the challenges facing CMS.”
Along with, of course, wondering about the fate of the Affordable Care Act under the new administration, one question many in the telehealth community likely have: To what degree does Verma (and her new boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price) plan to prioritize telemedicine? Some possible answers can be found in the written responses (obtained by Politico) to committee questions that Verma submitted to senators in advance of the vote. Striking an optimistic note, Verma stated that, in her view, “telehealth can provide innovative means of making health care more flexible and patient-centric.” Further, “Innovation within the telehealth space could help to expand access within rural and underserved areas.”
During her initial confirmation hearings, Verma had raised some eyebrows among health IT advocates when she expressed concerns about the potential administrative burdens that electronic health records could impose on physicians. As The Health Care Blog reported at the time, Verma “challenged the value of electronic health records especially in small practices and rural settings and likened interoperability to a bridge too far.” In the questionnaire, however, she was more optimistic, pointing to the importance of “information sharing and allowing clinicians to be more knowledgeable about their patients.” Above all, Verma’s comments to senators do seem to indicate a willingness to embrace new technologies, particularly when it comes to expanding access to care.