State, fed relationship will be 'reset' by Medicaid overhaul

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“Numbers covered” is a hollow stat, CMS chief Verma believes.
“Numbers covered” is a hollow stat, CMS chief Verma believes.

The relationship between the federal government and states participating in the Medicaid program will be “reset” under Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Administrator Seema Verma's vision.

Recent growth within the program has increased the level of oversight and regulations for states, Verma said at the National Association of Medicaid Directors Fall Conference on Nov. 7. 

The future of the program will “restore the partnership” between states and federal officials “while at the same time modernizing the program to deliver better outcomes for the people we serve,” she said.

Among changes to the program will be initiatives to give states more freedom in how they administer their programs, such as possible work requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries and new policies to improve demonstrations.

Verma criticized the Obama administration for focusing on increasing Medicaid enrollment rather than lifting people out of poverty, calling it an example of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

“We have a higher purpose than just handing out Medicaid cards and being a financier of healthcare,” Verma said. “We will not just accept the hollow victory of numbers covered, but will dig deeper and demand more of ourselves, and of you.”