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GUEST VIEW: How one government bureaucrat is sabotaging Texans’ healthcare - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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GUEST VIEW: How one government bureaucrat is sabotaging Texans’ healthcare

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Posted: Sunday, July 26, 2020 2:15 am

Last week, a coalition of 15 Members of Congress sent a letter of concern to Seema Verma, who administers the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the nation’s capital. They asked her why she has continued to refuse to give them the COVID-19 records they need to keep their constituents healthy and safe.

Texas has seen over a thousand pandemic-induced deaths in its nursing homes across 62-percent of its facilities. Large portions of these casualties have come due to the coronavirus’ general contagion levels among seniors and no fault of the nursing homes’ own. That said, our legislators still need a complete data set from CMS to formulate policies that protect the populace. Instead, Administrator Verma has chosen to provide an incomplete picture as if these seniors’ lives are not worth the added reporting requirement on the agency.

While egregious, Verma’s negligence here shouldn’t surprise residents of the Lone Star State. As outlined in a recent editorial from former congressman Bob Barr, her actions have almost singlehandedly exacerbated many of the American people’s most pressing healthcare problems. Texans have been disproportionately affected by her behavior.

Because of Verma, many of us have to spend more on drugs each year. With rising pharmaceutical drug and medical prices causing the state’s out-of-pocket costs and employer-sponsored health insurance to increase by 14-percent apiece from 2014-2018, it’s no secret Texans need relief from these high costs. The Trump administration created a reform plan to get drug pricing under control, but Verma reportedly tanked it and threatened to destroy the point man’s career if he tried pursuing it further. How a senior White House official like Verma can have so much ignorance or indifference over the need to reign in the unaffordability of healthcare is beyond me; nevertheless, it’s the case, and it’s had severe ramifications on low and middle-income families.

As if the hidden taxes she effectively imposed on Texans through tanking this drug pricing reform plan were not enough, Verma seemingly tried taking further action to increase Texas residents’ healthcare liabilities. She crafted an Obamacare “reform” plan that White House sources said would have driven consumers away from the affordable health insurance policies created by the Trump administration. Many Texans, who watched their premiums skyrocket 82-percent (over $2,100 per year) by 2017 thanks to Obamacare, rely on these cheaper plans and would have received significant harm from Verma’s proposal. Thankfully, White House officials killed it before it could get very far. Still, the question remains: why does the CMS administrator continue to stand so clearly against our interests?

One plausible answer is because she doesn’t care about us; she only cares about herself. She blocks reforms critical for the well-being of vulnerable Americans’ while spending millions of taxpayer dollars on outside communications consultants, including to improve her self-image. She shuns our seniors’ health and safety needs while trying to make taxpayers reimburse her for over $45,000 worth of personal items stolen from her SUV.

For all of these reasons and more, the Trump administration now faces a choice: make a leadership change at CMS, or continue to have its agency receive threats of legal and ethics investigations from Democrats in Congress. The decision is theirs to make, but for the sake of Texas’ vulnerable, here’s hoping they choose the former, not the latter.

Matt Mackowiak is president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.

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