American-Indian Seema Verma has been sworn in as the head of a key healthcare agency in the Trump administration.
As the head of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services she will head the US $1 trillion federal agency. The Department of Health and Human Services agency provides health services to 130 million Americans.
Verma is the second Indian-American to be inducted into the Trump administration.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was the first cabinet rank official from the community to serve in any presidential administration.
President Donald Trump's pick to run Medicare and Medicaid won confirmation Monday from a divided Senate as lawmakers braced for another epic battle over the government's role in healthcare and society's responsibility toward the vulnerable.
At her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, US Vice-President Mike Pence said:
President Trump has chosen one of the leading experts in America on state-based healthcare solutions to lead this important agency.
Indiana healthcare consultant Seema Verma, a protégé of Vice President Mike Pence, was approved by a 55-43 vote, largely along party lines.
An Impressive Background
Noting that Verma's extraordinary record stretches back for over 20 years, Pence said that after graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a master's degree in public health, she went to work in Indiana for the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County.
As a result of her efforts, Pence said today Indiana's programme is leading the nation with its emphasis on personal responsibility and effective care for people who need it most.
I'm grateful and appreciative of President Trump not only for asking me to be the administrator but for putting together an incredibly talented group of individuals that he's brought from the private sector into government service, people like Dr Tom Price.
At her swearing-in ceremony, Verma thanked the President for his faith in her.
I’m grateful and appreciative of President Trump not only for asking me to be the administrator but for putting together an incredibly talented group of individuals that he’s brought from the private sector into government service, people like Dr Tom Price.
Her Plans to Reform US Healthcare
The proposed legislation by the Republican Party, would roll back key elements of former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, including its Medicaid expansion for low-income people.
With a background in public health, Verma has said she wants government programmes to improve health, not just pay bills. She's been critical of Medicaid, saying "the status quo is not acceptable" for the federal-state insurance programme that covers more than 70 million low-income people.
At her Senate confirmation hearing, Verma defended her approach by saying that low-income people are fully capable of making healthcare decisions based on rational incentives.
She also said she does not support turning Medicare into a voucher plan under which retirees would get a fixed federal contribution to purchase private coverage from government-regulated private insurance plans. Her boss, HHS Secretary Tom Price, is a prominent advocate of such an approach. Medicare covers more than 56 million seniors and disabled people.
(With inputs from PTI. This story has been updated.)