Nov 13, 2019

CMS paid $2.25M consulting by former Trump White House officials

Seema Verma, administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hired about 40 former Trump White House and campaign employees for a $2.25 million annual contract to do work traditionally handled by CMS' own communications department.

Why it matters: "The arrangement allowed the Trump allies to cycle through the federal government's opaque contracting system, charging hefty fees with little public oversight or accountability," Politico reports.

Details: Multiple sources confirmed the authenticity of 200 pages of billing documents that Politico obtained from Health and Human Services in a congressional oversight request.

  • At least eight former officials from the White House, presidential transition and campaign for President Trump were hired.
  • CMS agreed to allow at least four consultants to bill up to $204,000 over the length of the contract, a much larger amount than senior career officials in the CMS communications department earned and a little more than HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s annual salary.

What they're saying: Politico reported that CMS insisted in a statement "that it followed standard government contracting procedures and that CMS routinely relies on thousands of contractors for 'critical day-to-day operations.'"

Go deeper: Medicare will now cover a costly cell therapy for cancer patients

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Scoop: Trump and Pence intervene in clash between top health officials

President Trump is flanked by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma at an event in July. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The working relationship between the Trump administration's top health officials, HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, has grown so dysfunctional that both President Trump and Vice President Pence have intervened to try to salvage the situation, according to three senior administration officials.

Why it matters: It's an extraordinary intervention at the highest levels of government. And it highlights, as Politico extensively reported, the White House's urgent desire for the heads of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to repair their working relationship.

Go deeperArrowDec 6, 2019

White House summons Azar, Verma to meeting that Trump may join

HHS Sec. Alex Azar, President Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has arranged a conflict resolution session at the White House between the nation's two top health officials, according to three administration officials. President Trump himself is likely to join, one of the officials said.

Why it matters: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma are engaged in a bitter feud that has exploded into the public eye over the last few weeks.

Go deeperArrowDec 10, 2019

Scoop: Top Trump officials' feud prompts sex discrimination probe

HHS Secretary Alex Azar speaks at a July event with Medicare chief Seema Verma (right). (Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Department of Health and Human Services took the extraordinary step of bringing in outside counsel earlier this year to investigate allegations of sex discrimination, Axios has learned — a sign of how badly the working relationship had deteriorated between Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare chief Seema Verma.

Why it matters: While the outside lawyer investigating the claims ultimately described them as unsubstantiated, the revelation of the investigation is more evidence that bad blood between the nation's top two health officials has sidetracked one of the biggest arms of the federal government.

Go deeperArrowDec 7, 2019