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Trump picks second Indian-American for his top team

world Updated: Nov 29, 2016 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Seema Verma, president and founder of SVC Inc., gets into an elevator as she arrives at Trump Tower, on November 22 in New York to meet US President-elect Donald Trump. (AFP File)

President-elect Donald Trump has tapped another Indian-American for a senior position on his team on Tuesday, naming Seema Verma the administrator of the powerful Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

He also named Congressman Tom Price the secretary of health and human services. Price will be tasked with dismantling Obamacare, which Trump had wanted to repeal in full.

But he has indicated after the election he may retain portions of President Barack Obama’s legacy health care reform.

Trump called Price and Verma a “dream team”. Both their appointments will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Verma’s appointment makes her the second Indian American in a senior post in the President-elect’s team after South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has been named US ambassador to the United Nations, a cabinet-rank position.

Verma, an expert on public health policy, has been described as a “powerful healthcare consultant” in Indiana, where she lived and worked with several governors including Mike Pence, the Vice-President-elect, on healthcare reforms.

“She has decades of experience advising on Medicare and Medicaid policy and helping states navigate our complicated systems,” the president-elect said about Verma, in a statement released by the transition team.

“Together, Chairman Price and Seema Verma are the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans.”

Trump is expected to announce other major appointments to the cabinet and other senior positions in coming days including that of the secretary of state, which has become embroiled in an intense, and public, feud in his team.

Trump is leaning towards Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who was brutal in his criticism of the real-estate baron, but some of his senior advisers have opposed it, questioning latter’s loyalty. They even doubt if Romney voted for Trump.

Trump has summoned Romney for a second meeting. But he has also met others such as former CIA boss David Petraeus, who he might be considering to be his top diplomat, the face of his foreign policy and national security agenda.

The appointments of Price and Verma was taken as a strong signal that Obamacare will be overhauled and replaced. Price, a surgeon, has been a strident critic of Obama’s signature legislation.

About her appoinement, Verma said, “I am honoured to be nominated by President-elect Trump today. I look forward to helping him tackle our nation’s daunting healthcare problems in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Verma is currently the President, CEO and founder of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company. She has worked extensively on a variety of policy and strategic projects involving Medicaid, insurance, and public health, working with Governors’ offices, state medicaid agencies, state health departments, state departments of insurance, as well as the federal government, private companies and foundations, according to the announcement from the Trump transition team.

She is also credited with redesigning Medicaid programmes in several states, and the statement called her “the architect” of the Healthy Indiana Plan, the nation’s first consumer-directed Medicaid programme.

Verma, who was Indiana’s health reform lead following the passage of Obamacare in 2010, did her Master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, and got her Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of Maryland.