The U.S. Senate has confirmed Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). She comes to the agency from the consulting firm of Manatt Health, where she was a managing director. Brooks La-Sure, the first black woman to lead CMS, has identified addressing health care equity, improving quality and reducing costs as key priorities.
As CMS administrator Brooks-LaSure will oversee programs with the potential to significantly impact the hospice industry. This includes the Medicare Hospice Benefit itself, as well as value-based payment options like Medicare Advantage, alternative payment models and direct contracting.
”I am excited by the many opportunities we have to work together to improve health care quality, lower costs, and promote better access,” Brooks La-Sure said at her Senate confirmation hearing. “I am committed to leading the agency in a way that ensures it acts with the utmost integrity and upholds its fiduciary responsibilities.”
Brooks-LaSure is no stranger to CMS or value-based initiatives, having previously served as deputy director of the agency’s health insurance office. She was also involved in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Earlier in her career she worked as a congressional staffer for the House Ways and Means Committee, where she worked closely with Rep. Xavier Becerra, whom President Biden has tapped to become U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services.
“Chiquita Brooks-LaSure brings solid experience to a very difficult job,” said National Association for Home Care & Hospice President Bill Dombi. “Over the years, she has demonstrated a high degree of capability and the versatility to handle the wide range of matters that occur in Medicare and Medicaid.”
In a typical year, the Medicare Hospice Benefit pays for about 98% of hospice in the United States, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. In 2018, that totaled $19.2 billion, up 7% from the previous year.
In addition to the traditional benefit, the agency is currently testing the inclusion of hospice within the Medicare Advantage program, through the value-based insurance design model.
“CMS plays a critical role to our nation’s hospice and palliative care provider community, and we are pleased to welcome Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the new administrator and applaud her confirmation today,” said National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) President and CEO Edo Banach. “She understands the inner workings of government and has a deep appreciation for health advocacy.”
Brooks-LaSure has pledged that under her leadership CMS will work to address racial and socioeconomic disparities that exist throughout the health care continuum, including hospice.
More than 80% of Medicare hospice patients in 2018 were Caucasian, according to NHPCO, while African American, Asian, Hispanic and Hispanic patients made up less than 20% of the remaining recipients that year.
“We must think broadly about health equity. During my career, I’ve seen how communities of color too often experience worse health outcomes, which we’ve seen so acutely during this pandemic,” Brooks-LaSure said in her confirmation hearing. “I look forward to working with [lawmakers] to expand access to quality care for all communities.”