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Former CMS Chief Seema Verma: Government Programs Must Keep Pace with Home-Based Care Innovation

Administrator Seema Verma

Seema Verma served as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2017 to 2021.

While that run makes Verma the longest-serving admin in the modern history of the agency, it also gives her a unique perspective on the future of health care in the U.S., including the ongoing shift toward in-home care and decentralization of traditionally brick-and-mortar models.

“The shift to home-based care is a positive development,” Verma told Home Health Care News. “The advent of new technology, from telehealth to remote patient monitoring, is supporting the rapid adoption of home-based care.”

Verma officially stepped down as the head of CMS on Jan. 15, a week before the incoming Biden administration took office. Several other senior officials from the previous Trump administration had already resigned by that point, but Verma viewed such a move as a “dereliction of duty,” considering the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since that time, the Johns Hopkins alumna has stayed active in the health care world by joining multiple companies’ boards. That list includes Lumeris, LifeStance and Monogram Health, the latter of which is focused exclusively on managing chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease in the home.

Verma additionally joined the board of Overland Park, Kansas-based WellSky toward the end of September.

“As CMS administrator, I made it a priority to tear down bureaucratic barriers to promote innovation, and I wanted to continue that focus in the private sector,” Verma explained. “WellSky is a leader in innovative health care technology and analytics that power better outcomes and lower costs for stakeholders across the health and community care continuum. Their approach will change the way care is delivered and promote a more sustainable health care system.”

WellSky provides software, analytics and similar technology services to over 1,000 hospital and health systems partners, in addition to tens of thousands of post-acute care providers and other groups. Its CEO, Bill Miller, discussed the impact of Verma’s board appointment last week during the HHCN FUTURE conference in Chicago.

“Her background lends itself very well to [what we’re doing],” Miller said. “Her husband is also a physician. She’s been very close to the fire. When you spend time with her, … you find she’s not very partisan and has very good ideas about the pressures on our health system.”

‘A unique opportunity’

During her time at CMS, Verma spearheaded more than 16 initiatives designed to lower costs, improve quality and increase access to care.

Her specific accomplishments included, for example, the expansion of Medicare Advantage (MA) by allowing plans to do more around social determinants of health and chronic illness. They also included various efforts around slashing insurance premiums for most Americans and the “Patients Over Paperwork” initiative, which Verma and her team created to cut red tape for providers.

Picking a particular accomplishment that Verma is most proud of is a nearly impossible task.

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