Top Dem presses Trump health official on potential ethics violation

Top Dem presses Trump health official on potential ethics violation
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Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (D-Ore.) says it appears a senior Trump administration health official has violated her ethics agreement by reviewing applications from states that employed her consulting firm.

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services general counsel on Friday pressing for answers about the ethics agreement of Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The letter cites evidence that Verma was involved in reviewing waiver applications from three states that were clients of her consulting business, SVC Inc., which it says appears to violate the terms of her ethics agreement.

“Recent statements by governors representing multiple states indicate that Administrator Verma has personally and substantially participated in waivers submitted to CMS by states that were clients of her previous consulting business,” Wyden writes. “Such participation appears to violate Administrator Verma’s ethics agreement, absent the issuance of written waivers for each of her interactions on a case-by-case basis.”

Wyden asks for any ethics waivers that have been issued.

Two of the waivers involved, from Arkansas and Kentucky, are states applying to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, a move Democrats have denounced as undermining the program for low-income people.   

As evidence, the letter cites statements including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) saying that “Seema Verma, who is the one who oversees this for the U.S., is the one who contacted ... our cabinet at the state level.”

Wyden asks for a “detailed description” of Verma’s role, as well as copies of any ethics waivers.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said Verma has a "limited authorization" that is publicly available online, allowing her to "engage with state entities on most matters."

The spokesperson added that the department is "reviewing the Senator's concerns."

Updated: 7:04 p.m.