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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

Go deeper

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.

3 hours ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.

3 hours ago - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.

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