The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on April 15 to consider Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Nominee Andrea Palm and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator-designate Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. The AAMC has supported the nominations of both Palm and Brooks-LaSure.
Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) opened the hearing by applauding both of the nominees’ “impeccable qualifications and experience” and stating that they “are both highly qualified nominees who will be ready to go on day one after they’re confirmed by the Senate.” Wyden Highlighted Brooks-LaSure’s experience working at the Office of Management and Budget, on the House Committee on Ways and Means, at HHS, and also in the private sector – noting that, “She’s worked closely with everybody involved in Medicaid – the federal government, states and private organizations – to try to expand coverage, improve care and help people get ahead.”
Wyden also discussed Palm’s background – particularly her leadership of Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response. Wyden stated that she “is a proven health care agency leader who knows exactly what it takes to run HHS smoothly.”
Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) emphasized the importance of both roles for which the nominees were being considered, highlighting the importance of HHS and CMS in providing “health care coverage to nearly 150 million people.” Crapo also noted the importance of the Deputy Secretary in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic stating that the “Department’s leadership, including the Deputy Secretary, will continue to play a key role in bringing us out of the Public Health Emergency.”
In one exchange, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a lead sponsor of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S. 834), raised the implementation of the 1,000 new Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) slots that congress provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (P.L. 116-260).
“I worked closely with bipartisan leaders, Democrats and Republicans, from urban and rural areas, at the end of the last Congress to secure 1,000 new Medicare-supported GME slots in the Consolidated Appropriations Act – the first increase in these positions in nearly 25 years,” Menendez stated. “Now that Congress has provided the slots, it will be up to the Administration to determine their implementation. It is important that these slots are distributed in a timely and efficient manner.”
He then asked Brooks-LaSure, “How do you plan to ensure smooth implementation of these critical new GME slots? How do you envision working with Congress to address physician workforce shortages and what steps would you take to help build on our recent bipartisan success on this issue?”
Brooks-LaSure responded that, “congressional intent is for these slots to go particularly to underserved areas…I want to make sure we have an open dialogue, one with public notice and comment where stakeholders can engage, and certainly an open door to hear your views.”
It is expected that the Finance Committee will vote to approve the nominees, followed by consideration by the full Senate.