President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN.
Brooks-LaSure, whose nomination to be CMS administrator would need Senate confirmation, was a top official at the agency during the Obama administration and worked to implement the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining the Obama administration, she was part of the Democratic staff for the House Ways and Means Committee, where she also worked on the landmark health reform law.
Currently a managing director at Manatt Health, a professional services firm, Brooks-LaSure also served as a co-lead of the Department of Health and Human Services agency review team during the Biden-Harris transition period.
Brooks-LaSure would be a key player in executing Biden’s promises to rebuild the Affordable Care Act and strengthen Medicaid – as well as institute a government-run public option and lower Medicare’s eligibility age to 60, from 65. The $1 trillion agency, the largest within HHS, oversees much of Obamacare and the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov. In total, more than 145 million Americans receive their health coverage through programs the agency administers, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act.
In recent years, Brooks-LaSure has co-authored reports on expanding coverage through state Medicaid buy-in proposals and on advancing health equity. Last month, she and her colleagues at Manatt published a report on two potential public option models in Nevada.
The Washington Post was first to report her expected nomination.
Brooks-LaSure would be tasked with reversing many of the policies put in place by her predecessor, Seema Verma, who served as the agency’s administrator for nearly four years. Under Verma’s tenure, CMS slashed funding for Obamacare marketing and outreach, cut the open enrollment period in half and promoted the use of private insurance brokers over non-profit navigators to help people find coverage.
Also, Verma took some historic and controversial steps in Medicaid, in particular permitting states to require low-income participants to work in order to receive benefits. The Biden administration has already started walking back the approvals. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the issue next month.
The Supreme Court is also considering the fate of the Affordable Care Act itself.
Brooks-LaSure’s nomination comes more than two months after Biden selected California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his Health and Human Services secretary, though he has yet to be confirmed. Two Senate committees will hold hearings on his nomination next week.
Becerra sat on the House Ways & Means Committee while Brooks-LaSure was a staffer.
The delays in confirming an HHS secretary and naming a CMS administrator have already had an impact on Biden’s early efforts to bolster the Affordable Care Act. CMS launched a special enrollment period on Monday to allow the uninsured to sign up for 2021 coverage. But the agency has not provided more funding for enrollment assistance, which some policy experts say stems from the lack of top officials.
This story has been updated with additional details.