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White House picks Brooks-LaSure to head Medicare, Medicaid, with big challenges ahead

Dive Brief:

  • The Biden administration on Friday confirmed it will nominate Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, two days after several publications reported her to be the White House’s pick. A statement from the White House touted her more than 20 years of experience in health policy and previous work guiding the ACA through passage and implementation.

 

  • Brooks-LaSure has most recently been an adviser on Medicare and Medicaid policy at law firm Manatt. Within CMS she held the position of deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

 

  • Avalere CEO Dan Mendelson, who has worked with Brooks-LaSure, had high praise for the choice. “Chiquita has very broad experience at CMS, and also has experience in the major governmental organizations where CMS collaborates,” he said. “She is also an outstanding listener which combined with her experience will help her succeed.”

 

Dive Insight:

The next CMS administrator will have a lot on her plate. Biden campaigned on expanding the role of the Affordable Care Act, perhaps building in a public option, or lowering Medicare age eligibility.

She also have to deal with the repercussions of the ongoing pandemic. That means deciding which regulations rolled back during the public health emergency might be made permanent to ease telehealth use.

Brooks-LaSure began her public service career as a Medicaid analyst for the Office of Management and Budget, according to a Manatt biography, which also states she worked there with clients “across the public and private sectors.” That could be an issue considering Biden’s ethics pledge, which bans participation “in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to” former clients.

She has also served as HHS director of coverage policy. Additionally, she worked for Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, where she collaborated with Biden’s nominee for HHS secretary, Xavier Becerra.

Mendelson said Brooks-LaSure has “an excellent relationship” with Becerra, “which is critically important.” That would be a change from the previous administration. Former HHS Secretary Alex Azar and ex-CMS administrator Seema Verma were reported to have a frosty relationship.

Becerra’s confirmation hearings are scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday in the Senate health and finance committees, respectively.

The CMS administrator will also require Senate confirmation, but the Democrats’ slim control of the body should assure that for Biden’s nominee.

Brooks-LaSure is also on the board of Fair Health, which collects and analyzes claims data and argues for more price transparency in healthcare.

In March, she co-authored an article in Health Affairs discussing policies for bolstering the ACA, such as incentivizing states to expand Medicaid through an extended enhanced federal match rate.

The article also suggests increasing eligibility for premium tax credits and endorses a public option, which Biden has also supported. She has argued elsewhere in support of a Medicare buy-in, including in congressional testimony.