Seema Verma emphasizes need for humility in healthcare delivery in HLTH keynote

Oct. 29, 2019
In a keynote speech on Sunday evening (Oct. 27) at the HLTH 2019 conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Seema Verma, current Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), voiced concerns about proposed changes in healthcare reform and proposals for a ‘Medicare for All’ platform.

Instead, Verma emphasized that the U.S. needs less government involvement and that patients need the freedom to select their own care platforms that include private and public options. “Today, I’d like to sketch out the second path, one that works far better because it recognizes government’s limitations; because it recognizes the need for humility.”

Verma continued, “The complete takeover of America’s healthcare system envisioned by advocates of Medicare for All is the polar opposite of humility. It is marked by an unwarranted confidence in government central planners to substitute for the millions of free and informed choices of individuals and their doctors…to substitute for private sector innovation and the power of free markets.”

She went on to say that she was reminded of something Ronald Reagan once said: “Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

Further, she emphasized that CMS provides indispensable benefits to vulnerable Americans. “But to the spirit of President Reagan’s point, we cannot allow government’s role in healthcare to go unquestioned and undefined.”

Her vision for healthcare includes three elements:

·   Providing a safety net for the most vulnerable;

·   Ensuring the sustainability of government programs for future generations; and

·   Setting fair ground rules for a flourishing and competitive healthcare market, while putting patients first.

Additionally, she voiced concerns about the current CMS reimbursement programs that ‘encourage excessive spending’, for example with fixed payment amounts for physicians that penalize rural physicians, and Medicare's fee-for-service system that rewards volume over value and quality.

CMS has the full transcript.