On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick to run U.S. health insurance programs, putting in place a key player who’ll carry out his strategy for expanding affordable coverage and reining in prescription drug costs.
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure was approved by the Senate and will be the first Black person to head the CMS. The Senate vote was 55-44, with five Republicans joining Democrats in approving her nomination. Brooks-LaSure had been expected to win stronger bipartisan support, but a controversy over a CMS action affecting the Medicaid program in Republican-led Texas appears to have spoiled those chances.
Brooks-LaSure, 46, has spent most of her career in government under administrations of both parties. She served in the White House budget office during the Republican administration of George W. Bush and worked in Congress and at the CMS in senior policy roles during the Barack Obama presidency.
Under Biden, she’ll be charged with moving toward his goal of health insurance for all Americans by building on existing programs, particularly the Obama health care law. Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill has greatly expanded subsidies for private plans offered through HealthCare.gov, a feature that the administration wants to make permanent.
Biden is also eager to help more than 2 million low-income people essentially trapped in a coverage gap because the states they live in have not expanded Medicaid. Throughout her career, Brooks-LaSure has worked on Medicaid policy, and that program has now grown to become a mainstay of coverage for many low-income working people.
Brooks-LaSure will begin immediately.