President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is being welcomed by long-term care providers.

Biden on Friday officially announced the nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to serve as the agency’s next administrator days after a Washington Post report revealed his plans.

“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/National Center for Assisted Living said in a statement on Friday. 

“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,” the association added. 

LeadingAge added that it’s “looking forward to working with her.” 

She previously served as a senior CMS official under the Obama administration and worked for the House Ways and Means Committee where she established ties with Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, who has his confirmation hearing Tuesday. 

Her past positions also include Deputy Director of Policy and Regulation at CMS and program examiner for the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she was a lead Medicaid analyst.

Brooks-LaSure would be the first Black woman to hold the post if her nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to multiple national news outlets.

Many long-term care veterans admitted late last week to not knowing much, if anything, about the policy expert before her name surfaced as a likely candidate. Some questioned whether she would be familiar enough with long-term care providers’ big issues, while others noted her vast experience with Medicaid should serve her well.

Can start ‘at full speed’

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News sources described Brooks-LaSure as “smart and capable.” The sources also noted “there aren’t a ton of tea lives to read on long-term care/aging” since her working has largely been associated with the Affordable Care Act and implementing the exchange. 

Another policy expert added, “She has a good reputation. As someone who has worked in the administration, the Hill and in private practice, she understands that policy has many sides — not just the theoretical or academic.” 

“She is measured, thoughtful and very smart. [She] has a kind disposition. She will walk in able to hit the ground running at full speed. This administration would be lucky to have her,” the source said. 

Former American Health Care Association Board Chairman Steve Chies conceded not knowing much about Brooks-LaSure until recently but said Friday that her impact on the industry may be relatively minimal.

“I don’t think we’ll see anything spectacular out of her, at least in our area. She’s into the ACA, and that’s fine, it’s a big issue. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anybody in that position can effect major changes in what’s going on,” said Chies, an operator for more than 40 years. 

“With all the bureaucracy in the system, you have people in Washington telling Baltimore [the site of CMS headquarters] what to do because of politics, and then Baltimore telling its regionals, who tell the states and the states tell their people who try to get word to the surveyors. You’re not getting any kind of consistency out of that process. It’s so bad, I don’t know what anybody can do other than go back to ground zero.”

It is not known how much resistance Brooks-LaSure might receive at her Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing, whose date was not known at deadline, or from the full Senate. But with Democrats holding the majority since the vice president would be called upon to break any ties, and no major outcry heard from any political corner last week, the nomination could be safe. Veteran CMS staffers Elizabeth “Liz” Richter and Jeff Wu are the acting heads of the agency until a new administrator is confirmed.