Biden picks Chiquita Brooks-Lasure to run CMS

President Biden's nominee to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been a hotly-debated topic among healthcare wonks for a couple of months now. He announced that he was picking California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his HHS Secretary back in early December, but who would be running CMS (basically the 2nd most-powerful position within the HHS Dept.) has been a big unknown until a few days ago, when Dan Diamond and Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post scooped the story.

I admit to never having heard of her until her name was mentioned as a possible contender in a few articles last month, but if confirmed, I'll probably be mentioning her name fairly often over the next few years (likely even more frequently than Becerras), so I figured I should post a quick profile of her today.

Here's the official White House statement:

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure is currently Managing Director at Manatt. A former policy official who played a key role in guiding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through passage and implementation, Brooks-LaSure has more than 20 years of experience in health policy. She previously served as deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and as director of coverage policy at the Department of Health & Human Services, where she led the agency’s implementation of ACA coverage and insurance reform policy provisions.

Here's Diamond & Goldstein's take:

During the presidential transition, Brooks-LaSure served as a lead for Biden’s HHS review team, helping assess the Trump administration’s operations. She has most recently served as a managing director at Manatt Health, a consulting firm that works with the health-care industry — a role that raised some concerns inside the Biden administration given the president’s stringent ethics pledge and the potential for Brooks-LaSure to shape policies that might affect her former clients, said one person familiar with those concerns.

However, Brooks-LaSure was championed by allies on Capitol Hill, including the Congressional Black Caucus. Mandy Cohen, the North Carolina health secretary and a fellow Obama veteran, was also considered for the role.

“The biggest coverage gap exposed (and exacerbated) by the covid-19 crisis is that many U.S. residents are not enrolled in affordable, comprehensive health coverage that will cover covid-19 testing and services and other health care costs,” Brooks-LaSure wrote in a Manatt Health commentary last year.

Dan Mendelson, founder of Avalere Health, a consulting firm, said that when it comes to CMS, Brooks-LaSure has “lived it from all perspectives, and I think that will make her effective in the role.” She worked for Mendelson at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, where she focused on Medicaid, and then again at Avalere, where she worked on issues involving Medicaid and Medicare for an array of clients.

Sounds good to me. Let's go.