In April, President Donald Trump’s Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma faced public backlash after a report detailed a $2.25 million contract she awarded to Republican consultants to bolster her own public image.
But the scandal may have been even worse than that. According to Politico, among the 40 outside contractors hired as part of this contract included “eight former White House, presidential transition and campaign officials for President Donald Trump” — who charged up to $380 per hour for “strategic communications” work and relied on the federal government’s convoluted contractor system to conceal what they were doing.
Among the contractors Verma hired were Marcus Barlow, her former spokesman when she was consulting for Mike Pence while he was governor of Indiana. Barlow’s contract allowed him to bill up to $425,000 in one year — which is more than twice the salary of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Also hired were Ken and Keith Nahigian, who worked for multiple GOP presidential campaigns and the Trump transition team, Brad Rateike, who advised the Trump campaign, and Maggie Mulvaney, a Republican fundraiser who is now working on Trump’s re-election team.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deny anything improper, with a spokesperson saying, “When the administrator started in 2017, [Verma] wanted to ensure that the agency was communicating with the American people about CMS programs and not just relying on inside-the-beltway health press. At that point, CMS did not have the specialized expertise or bandwidth needed to execute on a strategic communications plan for the agency’s work in ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, high quality health care.”
Verma has long been a controversial figure in the Trump administration. She is the mastermind behind the plan to encourage states to disenroll working-age adults without a job from Medicaid, which resulted in tens of thousands of low-income people — including some who are working — being kicked off the rolls in Arkansas. This work requirements plan is largely stalled in federal court.