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CMS Nominee Likes New Medicare Advantage Telehealth Flexibility

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What You Need to Know

  • In her nomination hearing, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said Biden supported lowering the Medicare eligibility age.
  • She said the president supports creating a public health insurance option.
  • Brooks-LaSure would be the first Black CMS administrator; she says she would ensure the agency supports people of color.

President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chief hopes to make pandemic-era Medicare Advantage program telehealth rule changes permanent.

The CMS administrator nominee, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, talked about Medicare Advantage program rules Thursday, at a cordial Senate Finance Committee hearing on her nomination.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee, said that CMS has given Medicare Advantage plan providers flexibility they can use to set up telehealth services, and even to send enrollees telehealth equipment.

“Why do we have to stop this when the pandemic ends?” Crapo asked.

Brooks-LaSure said she agrees on the need to support telehealth programs.

“Telehealth has been discussed for more than a decade, and now we’ve been able to see what value it brings,” Brooks-LaSure said.

Brooks-LaSure’s brother is a psychologist, and she said her brother has used telehealth to see more patients.

She said she would work with Congress to get the changes needed to make current, temporary Medicare Advantage program rules permanent.

More on this topic

Brooks-LaSure also told:

  • Crapo that she would listen carefully to the views of state officials, and that she respects state officials’ hunger for certainty about Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rule waivers.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., that Biden supports the idea of creating a Medicare-like “public option” health insurance program.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that Biden would like to reduce the normal Medicare eligibility age to 60, or possibly even younger.

Meet Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Brooks-LaSure grew up in New Jersey and earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1996. She earned a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University in 1999.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that Brooks-LaSure once served on committee as an intern.

Brooks worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1999 through 2003.

She said the bipartisan effort to find health benefits for workers dislocated by the 9/11 crisis helped give her a  “collaborative, commonsense, results-oriented” philosophy.

If confirmed by the Senate, Brooks-LaSure would be the first Black CMS administrator.

Brooks-LaSure reported that her own hometown, a predominantly Black community, has experienced a higher rate of infections and deaths than many surrounding communities.

“I am committed to working with you and leaders across the government to ensure that CMS is supporting patients, their families and providers, including communities of color who have been hardest hit by this pandemic,” Brooks-LaSure said.

Pictured: Chiquita Brooks-LaSure (Photo: House Ways and Means Committee)