This month, two House committees and two Senate committees published a report of a joint investigation into Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma's spending of taxpayer funds. The complete 56-page report is available in our "Partner News" section in the footer of our web site. For convenience, we reprint highlights from the report's Executive Summary here.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Senate Committee on Finance Minority, and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Minority (the Committees) conducted a year-long investigation into Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma's use of taxpayer funds to retain communications consultants with strong Republican political ties.
The Committees' investigation shows that Administrator Verma and her top aides abused the federal contracting process to stock CMS with handpicked Republican consultants who billed the government hourly rates of up to $380. In less than two years, Administrator Verma's consultants charged CMS nearly $6 million for work that included boosting her public profile and personal brand, serving as her preferred communications advisors, arranging private meetings for her with media personalities and other high-profile individuals, and routinely traveling with her to events across the country. By retaining these consultants, Administrator Verma misused funds appropriated by Congress, wasting taxpayer dollars intended to support federal health care programs.
The evidence obtained by the Committees expands on the findings of a recent audit conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) and demonstrates that Administrator Verma's expenditures potentially exceeded the scope of CMS's authority under the applicable appropriations. Congress appropriated taxpayer funds to CMS to ensure that Americans have access to and are aware of opportunities to enroll in federal health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Congress did not intend for Administrator Verma or other senior CMS officials to use taxpayer dollars to stockpile CMS with handpicked consultants or promote Administrator Verma's public profile and personal brand. Given the reckless disregard she has shown for the public's trust, Administrator Verma should reimburse the taxpayers for these inappropriate expenditures.
During the course of the investigation, the Committees obtained tens of thousands of pages of documents from HHS and private parties, conducted interviews and briefings with employees and executives from two of the consulting firms used by CMS, and collected additional information from databases, court records, and press reports, among other sources. The Committees' investigation shows:
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