Verma confirmed by Senate to head CMS

Health IT groups are hoping new CMS Administrator will turn attention to HIT issues as healthcare industry transitions from fee-for-service to value-based care.

The Senate on Monday voted 55-43 along party lines to confirm Seema Verma to serve as the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Verma takes the helm of CMS—an agency with a trillion dollar budget that covers more than 100 million Americans through Medicare and Medicaid—as the healthcare industry is transitioning from fee-for-service to value-based care.

A healthcare consultant who worked on several state Medicaid programs, she comes to the top job at CMS as the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are attempting pass into law their American Health Care Act—a GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Charles Stellar, president and CEO of the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, believes that Verma brings to her position at CMS a “comprehensive knowledge of insurance agencies and public health agencies to redesign state Medicaid programs, including waivers for several states.”

Stellar adds that Verma’s “knowledge in healthcare policy and her work with Hewlett-Packard in modernizing Medicaid systems to achieve full optimization of health IT for both clinical and administrative purposes, makes her appointment especially exciting for WEDI.”

Health IT groups are hoping that the administration’s focus on repealing and replacing the ACA will not be the only priority and that officials eventually will turn their attention to HIT issues. These groups are quick to point out that health data and IT has the potential to transform healthcare, resulting in lower costs and better outcomes.

“We look forward to working with Administrator Verma on increasing the recognition and use of health IT as a medium for delivering quality care,” says Robert Horne, executive director of Health IT Now.

Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy for the American Medical Informatics Association, notes that AMIA wants to work with Verma on critical programs such as the new CMS Quality Payment Program—a system designed to reward value—as well as “having informed discussions on the value of health IT in delivering better care at lower costs.”

Smith adds that it is “paramount that Medicare and Medicaid policies encourage continued investment in improved technology so that we can benefit from usable, interoperable, secure and safe IT systems.”

For its part, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society congratulated Verma on her confirmation and said it looks forward to working with her on “recognizing the full value of health IT in ensuring interoperability, improving care, increasing access, and driving better health outcomes to patients.”

Among the topics of “mutual interest” that HIMSS would like to discuss with Verma are reinforcing the importance of electronic clinical quality reporting and expanding CMS recognition of telehealth capabilities across the agency.

Robert Tennant, director of health IT policy at the Medical Group Management Association, believes that Verma is taking the helm at CMS at a critical time for HIT.

“Significant challenges lay ahead in the HIT environment—modifying the ACI component of MIPS, reviewing opportunities to negate 2016 Meaningful Use penalties and implementation of critical administrative simplification standards such as electronic attachments,” contends Tennant.

Stakeholder groups are encouraged by the fact that Verma, like her boss Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, has been critical of burdensome regulations on providers such as electronic health record requirements under the Meaningful Use program.

Also See: Trump’s pick to lead CMS has concerns about EHRs

“Doctors are increasingly frustrated by the number of costly and time-consuming burdens,” Verma testified February 16 before the Senate Finance Committee. “We should support doctors in providing high-quality care to their patients and ensuring that CMS’s rules and regulations don’t drive doctors and providers from serving the people or beneficiaries.”

According to Tennant, MGMA is looking forward to working with Verma to “establish policies that lead to more effective and efficient use of HIT in physician practices.”

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