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In questionnaire, Seema Verma explains dual role working for private company, state of Indiana

Potential CMS leader says she will work to roll back "harms" created by the Affordable Care Act.

Susan Morse, Associate Editor

Though Seema Verma's nomination to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will go before a vote the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday morning, answers in her recently released written questionnaire are aimed at dismissing concerns over any conflicts of interests ahead of her vote.

In the document, Ranking Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Verma to explain her firm's contracts with seven health services companies as CEO, president and founder of national health policy consulting company SVC, while also handling the Healthy Indiana Medicaid expansion plan for the state of Indiana.

"As discussed in the hearing, it appears that you were advising the state at the same time that you had contracts with other vendors, including HMA," Wyden said.

Verma said she did not oversee HMA's work and the scope of that work for SVC was solely that of professional consulting services.

[Also: Seema Verma to face Senate Finance Committee vote Wednesday]

Wyden asked about two separate news articles, in which the former head of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Debra Minott, said Verma had represented Hewlett-Packard in a billing dispute before a state agency for which she was a consultant.

In an Indianapolis Star article from Aug. 26, 2014, Wyden said Minott is quoted as saying, "We had delayed paying an HP invoice because of an issue we were trying to resolve, and HP sent Seema to our CFO to resolve the issue on their behalf. I was troubled because I thought Seema was our consultant."

That article was updated and republished on November 29, 2016. The Associated Press on Feb. 14 republished the updated story on November 29, 2016, in which Minott reiterated Verma had represented HP in the dispute.

The AP article stated, "It was never clear to me until that moment that she, in essence, was representing both the agency and one of our very key contractors," said Minot(t), who was removed as Head of the agency by Gov. Mike Pence, now vice president, over her disagreements with Verma. "It was just shocking to me that she could play both sides."

In the Q&A document obtained by Politico, Verma denied representing HP in the billing dispute with the state agency, saying the only source for the allegation was a disgruntled former employee.

The contracts ranged in price from $5,000 to $1.5 million.

Milliman Actuaries provided the development of the state's waivers at a price of $1.5 million, Wyden said.

[Also: Seema Verma says she's against Medicare vouchers, suggests risk models hurt rural healthcare]

SVC contracted with Health Management Associates for $300,000 for the development of the uninsured program from 2006 to 2011, according to the document.

Another company, Maximus, which had a contract with SVP of $10,000, is the largest provider of Medicaid and CHIP enrollment services in the U.S., according to Wyden.

SVP had $5.3 million worth of contracts in Indiana.

Verma said her ethics agreement states she would not participate in any particular matter involving a former client for a period of one year after she last provided service to the client, unless she is first authorized to participate.

In addition to addressing conflict concerns, Verma also laid out a few objectives surrounding healthcare policy. But in answer to many questions said she would work to implement Congressional policy to give all Americans access to quality healthcare.

Verma was asked about President Donald Trump's Jan. 20 executive order instructing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the heads of all agencies, including CMS, to do everything possible to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

"If I am confirmed, I plan to review prospective options with CMS staff and others within HHS and the administration to better determine what can be done to undo or mitigate the harms created by the ACA. Once I evaluate the options," she said.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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