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Elizabeth Richter named interim head of CMS as Biden transitions to new era

The move is the first sign of future healthcare policy changes, given Biden's promises to reform the industry.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Elizabeth Richter, left, has been named interim head of CMS, replacing Administrator Seema Verma.

As President Joe Biden settles into the Oval Office, his new administration has named Elizabeth Richter acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where she will serve on an interim basis until a permanent chief is chosen. Picking a new administrator will require Senate confirmation.

The change was reflected on CMS' website, which lists Richter as acting administrator. She has served with CMS since 1990, beginning with the Bureau of Policy Development, where she worked on inpatient hospital payment policy. She then worked on a variety of Medicare payment issues.

In 1998, Richter moved to the Office of Financial Management, where in 2001 she became director of the Financial Services Group. In 2003, she became director of the Hospital and Ambulatory Policy Group in the Center for Medicare Management and became deputy director of the Center for Medicare in 2007.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The move is the first sign of future healthcare policy changes, given Biden's promises to reform the industry in part by expanding access and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. Richter succeeds outgoing administrator Seema Verma, who resigned on Wednesday along with the rest of former President Trump's appointed officials.

Last week, Verma submitted her resignation with an effective date of January 20, a customary move for political appointees as one administration transfers power to another.

"I will never stop fighting for American patients," said Verma via tweet on Wednesday. "Signing off."

According to Politico, Richter will be accompanied by Jeff Wu, another longtime CMS staffer who will act as Richter's deputy. Wu has been with the agency since 2011 and has led work on ACA insurance reforms at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

Biden has nominated California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as his HHS secretary, but there has been no confirmation hearing scheduled as of yet.

THE LARGER TREND

The change in leadership happens at a precarious time for the nation's health, with the COVID-19 pandemic still surging in many parts of the country. The federal government has fallen short of its goal when it comes to distribution of a much-needed vaccine; Operation Warp Speed officials said 20 million doses would be delivered by the end of 2020, but as of Tuesday 31,161,075 doses had been distributed and 15,707,588 had been administered.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have a seven-point plan to beat COVID-19, including calls for doubling the number of drive-through testing sites; investing in testing, including at-home tests and instant tests; and setting up a Pandemic Testing Board such as Roosevelt's War Production Board.

The plan calls for establishing a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country with support from local organizations in communities most at risk to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com