Senator questions Medicaid chief's involvement in waiver discussions with Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Senator questions Medicaid chief's involvement in waiver discussions with Arkansas

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SEEMA VERMA: Senator questions her meeting with Arkansas on Medicaid given her past private work consulting for the state.
  • SEEMA VERMA: Senator questions her meeting with Arkansas on Medicaid given her past private work consulting for the state.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has raised questions about Medicaid administrator Seema Verma's participation in rule waivers for three states, including Arkansas because she'd previously been paid for Medicaid consulting work for those states.

Talking Points Memo broke the story this morning.

In a letter dated Jan. 19 to the general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services obtained by TPM, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is requesting an investigation into the potential conflicts of interest of Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), particularly her handling of waiver requests from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Iowa.

“Recent statements by governors representing multiple states indicate that Administrator Verma has personally and substantially participated in waivers submitted to CMS by states that were clients of her previous consulting business,” Wyden wrote.


In a letter to Robert Charrow, general counsel, Wyden questions whether Verma has run afoul of an ethics agreement she entered when hired as administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Wyden details reports, including here, that Verma has talked with officials in Kentucky, Arkansas and Iowa about waiver requests. Arkansas is seeking permission to put a work requirement on Medicaid recipients. She has granted such a waiver to Kentucky, but still has Arkansas's request under review. Arkansas officials indicated that they were hopeful it would be approved. Arkansas also wants to lower the income level at which people may qualify from 138 to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. NOTE CORRECTION: I had the percentages reversed previously.

We wrote earlier about Verma's past work for Arkansas, through a contract her company had with Hewlett Packard. HHS told me then that Verma had received approval to discuss waivers with Arkansas.

Wyden said it appeared Verma's agreement to recuse from matters involving former clients had "fallen short of the mark." He's asked for a record of the waivers granted to Verma for talking with the affected states and also asked for communications between Verma and the states. (I FOI'ed this same material in Arkansas earlier this week, but haven't received a response yet.)

HHS told me earlier this week that the department gave Verma approval to work on matters affecting Arkansas shortly after she was appointed and the authorization remained in effect and need not be renewed for each meeting with the state. Wyden's office apparently believes that approval was insufficient under terms of her agreement.

Here's Wyden's letter.

PS: Another cozy element. Former Hutchinson staffer Vu Ritchie is now senior counselor for Verma at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.



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