Some of Brooks-LaSure’s immediate tasks will involve implementing regulations established by the 2020 year-end appropriations act and the 2021 COVID-19 relief legislation.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure has moved into the top leadership position at CMS after getting confirmed in a Senate vote May 25.
Brooks-LaSure, who becomes the first Black woman to helm the agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplaces, was confirmed by a vote of 55-44. The vote was delayed for about a month by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a procedural maneuver in response to the Biden administration’s decision to rescind a Texas Medicaid waiver.
Brooks-LaSure most recently was managing director of the health division at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. She previously had roles in the federal government with the Office of Management and Budget and the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, along with a stint as a House Ways and Means Committee staff member.
During her April 15 confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Brooks-LaSure said her immediate focus would be supporting patients and providers in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regarding broader healthcare policy priorities, she said strengthening federal healthcare programs to bolster quality and access while lowering costs will be paramount.
In the short term, she said, some of her specific tasks will be implementing regulations governing the recently enacted ban on surprise bills and the new emergency rural hospital designation, along with the expansion of financial assistance for lower-income families and individuals to buy coverage in the ACA marketplaces.
Brooks-LaSure also wants to promote innovation in therapies, procedures and care models while increasing affordability. She hopes to work with Congress to address costs, specifically mentioning prescription drugs.
She also said she’ll strive to improve health equity. “During my career, I’ve seen how communities of color too often experience worse health outcomes, which we’ve seen so acutely during this pandemic,” she said. “If confirmed, I look forward to working with [Congress] to expand access to quality care for all communities.”