One-On-One With Trump’s Medicare And Medicaid Chief: Seema Verma

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868彩票地址 Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, sat down for a rare one-on-one interview with Kaiser Health News senior correspondent Sarah Varney.

They discussed her views on President Donald Trump’s plan for sustaining public health insurance programs, how the administration would respond if Obamacare is struck down by the courts in the future and her thoughts on how the latest “Medicare for All” proposals would affect innovation and access to care.

868彩票地址A portion of their conversation aired on PBS NewsHour on Dec. 23. A transcript follows, edited for length and clarity.

ACA premiums were in 2019 compared with 2018.]?And so the issue around enrollment is that health insurance has become so unaffordable for families that that’s why they can’t afford their coverage.

Varney: So we did hear from a number of federally qualified health centers that although the Navigator grants really were focused on, you know, ideally they were focused on exchanges, people buying private health insurance, that, in fact, there were a lot of people who came in, who became eligible for Medicaid and discovered that they were eligible for Medicaid in that way. So I wonder if there is additional outreach that needs to be done to those families, not just virtually or online, but some other way to reach those families?

Verma:868彩票地址?The real problem around making sure that people have access to affordable coverage is really addressing the high cost of health care. And that’s what the president is focused on. His health care agenda isn’t just about putting out more subsidies and having the government pay more and more and creating unaffordable programs. But it is about addressing the underlying cost drivers in health care. That’s why he’s focused on prescription drug pricing, he’s focused on transparency, price transparency, so that there’s more competition in the market. We’re also focused on getting rid of burdensome regulations that we know drive up the cost of care.

I think by addressing that, that is going to result in decreased premiums, which will result in more people having access to affordable coverage.

Varney:868彩票地址 But all those things that you just mentioned — they don’t necessarily affect the Medicaid population directly. Now, they may affect them indirectly by increasing overall health care costs, but in terms of the Medicaid population, really reaching out, ensuring that every single child who’s eligible for Medicaid is enrolled?

Verma:868彩票地址 So, our focus is also on addressing the economy. Under the president’s leadership, we have a booming economy. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates. We have more people that are earning more money, and we have fewer people living in poverty. There’s been a reduction in the number of people living in poverty by 1.4 million people. And so, we are seeing people coming out of the Medicaid program, and because the economy’s doing so well. The issue is, though, they can’t afford coverage. And so, even as we increase our outreach efforts, we spent over $48 million on outreach, the issue is around affordability. Obamacare has impacted the market in such a way that it’s become unaffordable for people that don’t have subsidies.

Varney:?So, we’re at this moment in our country and our national conversation where we’re talking about how do we ensure that more and more people are insured? And I wonder what the administration is doing to move the needle, to stop the growth in the uninsured, particularly among children?

Verma:868彩票地址 I think our focus has been about addressing affordability of health care. The underlying issue in people not being able to afford their health insurance is that it’s too expensive. And the solution is not trying to throw more government money around subsidies, because that’s just going to increase taxes for everybody. Our approach is to address the underlying issues. President Trump is addressing long-standing issues in health care that haven’t been addressed by any administration. The blueprint that he put out on drug pricing was very historic. The work that he’s done on price transparency. And the work that we’re trying to do around the regulatory burden, getting rid of all kinds of unnecessary regulations that are actually increasing the cost of health care for providers. We spend over $200 billion on administrative costs every year. So what we’re trying to do is address the cost of health care, but also make sure that we continue to have the high-quality, innovative health care system that Americans are used to.

Varney: So there are some people who are advocating for a Medicare for All type of solution to this, to say that much of those costs are because the marketplace, in a sense, doesn’t work in health care. And I wonder what you say to people who are proposing that? Who are saying, this is all just, that the market doesn’t work when it comes to health care?

Verma:868彩票地址 So, when it comes to health care and it comes to the solutions around Medicare for All. … Medicare for All would strip Americans, 180 million Americans, of their private health insurance and put them on a government-run, bureaucratic program. If we look at the programs that we have today, our government-run programs, our Medicare program is not affordable. The Medicare Trustees have indicated in the next seven years they’re gonna run out of money, they’re gonna have trouble paying their bills. The Medicaid program is the No. 1, No. 2 budget item for many states. And you’re hearing states every day — look at the situation in New York, where they can’t afford their Medicaid programs. And so, our track record on government-run programs isn’t strong. And I think our focus is on trying to unleash competition to drive down costs, but keep the innovation in the system. Our concern is that a government-run or more government is going to thwart innovation.

As the head of the Medicare program, I see every day that government regulations kind of stand in the way, that there are delays in our beneficiaries being able to access treatments. That’s why the president put out the Medicare Executive Order, which was focused on making sure we can do better with this. But I think, you know, putting more people on a government program is actually going to threaten the sustainability of the programs that we have in place today.

Varney:868彩票地址 And do you think through the measures that you’re talking about, that you could reduce costs — 15%, 20% — in the health care system of the United States?

Verma: 868彩票地址I think our goal is to try to reduce cost, and to make it more unaffordable [sic]. And we’ve had great success with this under President Trump’s leadership. If we look at the Medicare Advantage Program, for example, under his leadership, premiums have gone down by over 23% since he came into office. In the Part D program, premiums are down by 13%, the lowest level in seven years. Going back to Medicare Advantage, that’s the lowest level in 13 years. So, I think the president’s policies are working, because we demonstrated that we can lower premiums.

Same thing on the individual exchanges. For the very first time, the individual market has been stabilized and premiums went down last year by a percent, this year by 4%, and they’re still too high, there’s a new class of uninsured being created by Obamacare, but President Trump’s policies have actually resulted in more Americans, more seniors having money back in their pockets.

Varney: Now we’re waiting for a ruling from the courts on the future of the Affordable Care Act. If it’s struck down, what is your plan to replace it?

Verma: Well, the president’s been very clear that he wants to make sure that individuals with preexisting conditions have protections. And we have prepared for a variety of scenarios, and we want to make sure that there’s no disruption in coverage. And we’ll work with Congress to make sure that Americans have access to high-quality, affordable coverage. That is not what they have today. People with preexisting conditions do not have those protections. Individuals that don’t get subsidies and can’t afford coverage really don’t have those protections. And so the president wants to make sure that we’re addressing those individuals, and that people with preexisting conditions have the appropriate protections that they don’t have today.

Varney: But how do you guarantee those protections, also reduce costs and not lead to widespread uninsurance rates going up?

Verma: I think our focus is not just on costs, but it’s also making sure that we preserve quality and innovation in the system. One of the initiatives that we’ve had is around trying to pay our providers differently. Right now, we’re paying in a system where we just pay for people to get things done. And we want to change that paradigm, where we’re holding providers accountable for providing quality care, improving the quality of life, preventing disease and keeping people healthy.

Varney: So, just my final question. There have been these reports of a rift, a growing rift between you and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. And I wonder if people should be concerned about whether or not that’s going to get in the way of the very ambitious slate of initiatives that you and President Trump have planned?

Verma:868彩票地址?Well, Secretary Azar and I are both committed and have a shared goal around delivering on the president’s agenda.

Related Topics

Cost and Quality Health Care Costs Insurance Medicaid Medicare States The Health Law Uninsured
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