A deep, personal feud between President Trump’s health secretary and his Medicare administrator has undermined the administration’s health care agenda and disrupted the development of an Obamacare replacement plan, Politico reports.
Citing current and former administration officials, Politico’s Rachana Pradhan, Adam Cancryn and Dan Diamond detail an “increasingly bitter” rivalry between Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, with the two health officials sparring over policy, personnel and public appearances.
More than the usual political backbiting: “Given the organizational relationship between HHS and CMS, some friction between the two offices isn’t unusual,” Politico reports. “However, officials familiar with the workings of previous administrations described an atmosphere of discord among the top two health appointees unlike anything seen in recent years.”
Verma “freelanced” an Obamacare replacement plan: “Verma spent about six months developing a Trump administration alternative to the Affordable Care Act, only to have Azar nix the proposal before it could be presented to Trump this summer, sending the administration back to the drawing board, senior officials told POLITICO. Azar believed Verma’s plan would actually strengthen Obamacare, not kill it.” An unnamed senior administration official said Verma’s plan wasn’t acceptable to the White House or HHS and called it “disastrous.” White House and CMS officials denied to Politico that Verma was “freelancing” and not coordinating with others in the administration.
The infighting, officials told Politico, results in less time to develop and pursue the administration’s health care agenda. "The amount of time spent dealing with things like this, and having to have these fights and have these issues, are time that could've been spent thinking of better drug pricing proposals or other ways to advance parts of the agenda,” one official was quoted as saying.
A spokesperson for Azar told Politico that any suggestion of tensions between the two health officials was “absurd.”