When Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, went to a reporter’s home in November 2018 for a “Girls Night Out” in her honor, taxpayers footed the bill to host the event: $ 2,933.
When Verma wrote an editorial on the Fox News website touting President Donald Trump’s changes to Obamacare, taxpayers were charged the price of a consultant to place it: $ 977.
And when the consultants spent months promoting Verma to win Washingtonian magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Washington” awards and featured in high-profile panels, taxpayers were also billed – more than $ 13,000.
The efforts were led by Pam Stevens, a Republican communications consultant and former Trump administration official working to elevate the Verma brand, who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Prices were the amount that a consulting firm billed the government for its services, based on its bills, obtained from members of the Democratic Congress.
They are among the revelations included in a large Congressional investigation that tells how Verma spent more than $ 3.5 million on a variety of Republican Party-related consultants, who polished his public profile, wrote his speeches, and post on Twitter, he has negotiated meetings with high-profile people and even billed taxpayers for connecting Verma with other Republicans in Congress.
Verma, 49, who advised the then governor. Mike Pence in Indiana on health policy prior to joining the Trump administration vigorously rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing in his advisory practices. In October 2019, he told a House committee that “all of the contracts we have at CMS are based on promoting CMS work” and that the spending was “consistent with how the agency used its resources last. “.
But the investigation, conducted by Democrats of four congressional committees, found that Verma surrounded himself with a rotating cast of at least 15 highly paid communications consultants during his first two years in office, even though he publicly called for tax restrictions. and political defenses. how’s work. requirements for Americans with Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people.
“Verma and his best associates abused the federal hiring process for Administrator Verma’s benefit and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars,” the Democrats concluded in a 53-page summary of the investigation, which was shared with POLITICO and will be released Thursday later.
Verma declined to comment through health department chief spokesman Michael Caputo, who described the report as “another reckless success of the election year.”
“The CMS administrator will continue its unprecedented efforts to transform the American healthcare system to ensure that innovation in health care policies drive public discussion, not deliberately planned political attacks,” Caputo said in a statement.
Stevens declined to address the specific rumors on his invoices, but said in a statement that a major consulting firm, Porter Novelli, “asked me to come up with a plan to educate the media on CMS work through meetings with the CMS. CMS administrator. Then I was asked to facilitate meetings with some organizations of the plan, as well as with opinion leaders. This was the purpose of my work. ”
A spokesperson for Porter Novelli declined to comment until the organization re-examined the Democrats report.