Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was confirmed as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by the U.S. Senate late Tuesday morning.
President Joe Biden’s nominee worked for the Obama administration and helped implement the Affordable Care Act. She was most recently managing director at Manatt Health, a professional services firm.
Her nomination was approved 55-44 with four yes votes from Republicans, Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Jerry Moran (KS) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
Brooks-LaSure now takes the reins of the nursing home industry’s top regulatory and funding agency and its $1 trillion budget.
During her confirmation hearing, Brooks-LaSure expressed her support for permanently adopting telehealth coverage waivers issued during COVID-19.
“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to take the lessons across a variety of issues, and telehealth is something that’s been discussed for more than a decade, and now we’ve been able to see what value it brings,” Brooks-LaSure said.
She later added she wants to work with lawmakers to look at what “CMS’ administrative authority is and what changes we may need Congressionally, [in order to] bring the lessons that we’ve learned from COVID into our healthcare system on a permanent basis.”
Brooks-LaSure is the first Black woman to lead the agency since it was established almost six decades ago.
Provider organizations embraced her selection when it was announced back in February.
“Never has there been a more crucial time to serve as the head of CMS, with so much at stake for our vulnerable patients and those who care for them,” the American Health Care Association said then. “We look forward to an open dialogue with Brooks-LaSure, so that we can foster a collaborative relationship with all stakeholders about how to support long term care providers in keeping residents safe as well as offering the highest quality care.”
This is not Brooks-LaSure’s first time at CMS. She previously served as deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within the agency, and previously served as the Department of Health and Human Services’ director of coverage policy, where she led the agency’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
While her confirmation hearing was fireworks-free, a top Senate Republican held up her nomination by the full Senate to express his frustration with a Medicaid waiver decision.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) temporarily blocked a vote after the Biden administration, of which she was not yet part, rescinded Texas’ Medicaid waiver, approved by the Trump administration in January. It would have extended the state’s Medicaid plan for another 10 years.
Though the final confirmation vote was more partisan than initially expected, senators from both sides of the aisle have praised Brooks-LaSure’s bonafides.
In its coverage of Tuesday’s vote, The Washington Post quoted Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, as saying Brooks-LaSure has done just about everything in healthcare “short of scrubbing into the operating room herself.”
She’s “committed to working with both sides here in the Senate,” he added.