The new head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the administration will focus on getting more people insured and is interested in finding a way to alleviate the gap keeping low-income families in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid from enrolling in Affordable Care Act health plans.
The new head of the federal agency that oversees health benefits for nearly 150 million Americans and $1 trillion in federal spending said in one of her first interviews that her top priorities will be broadening insurance coverage and ensuring health equity.
“We’ve seen through the pandemic what happens when people don’t have health insurance and how important it is,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who was confirmed by the Senate to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on May 25 and sworn in on May 27. “Our focus is going to be on making sure regulations and policies are going to be focused on improving coverage.”
It is an abrupt switch from the Trump administration, which steered the agency to spearhead efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and scale back Medicaid, the federal-state program for those with low incomes.
Brooks-LaSure, whose agency oversees the ACA marketplaces in addition to Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, said she is not surprised at the robust takeup of ACA insurance since President Joe Biden reopened enrollment in January. The administration announced last month that more than 1 million people had signed up already.
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked with a lot of the state-based marketplaces and we could see the difference in enrollment when the states were actively pushing coverage,” she said. A former congressional and Obama administration health staffer, Brooks-LaSure most recently was managing director at the consulting firm Manatt Health. “I believe that most people who are not enrolled want” coverage but may not understand it’s available or how to get it, she said. “It’s about knowledge and affordability.”