Washington (Associated Press)-Personal adviser to federal officials, responsible for taxpayers billing medical insurance for nearly $6 million in less than two years, to strengthen her personal image, including striving for awards and listing her as List of powerful women and arrange meetings with influential people, a report from Congressional Democrats said Thursday.
Investigators wrote that these consultants, and many consultants with ties to the Republican Party, charge taxpayers as much as $380 per hour. The main purpose is to improve the image of Medicare administrator Seema Verma.
A contractor who has done a lot of work for the Republican Party, Pam Stevens, charges $330 an hour to find ideas, such as publishing “Oprah Magazine”
According to the report, the contractor was “selected” by Verma’s assistants and created a “shadow operation” that kept the communications staff of the Medicare and Medicaid Service Centers on the edge.
The 56-page report said that the consultant’s work is usually not related to running the agency’s Medicare, Medicaid, and other large-scale health programs. The report is backed by more than 1,700 pages of documents. Verma has been operating the agency since 2017.
The report stated: “Congress does not intend to allow Administrator Verma or other senior CMS officials to use taxpayer money and carefully selected consultants to reserve CMS or promote Administrator Verma’s public image and personal brand.”
It said: “In view of her reckless disregard for gaining public trust, Chief Executive Velma should repay these improper expenditures to taxpayers.”
An official from the Ministry of Health and Human Services called the report a “political smear” by “ultra-left politicians.” The statement by Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs for the department, did not deny any specific conclusions of the report.
Caputo said: “This is just another reluctance of reform-driven Trump administration officials, politically timely, eager to find jobs, and extends to President Trump himself.” Caputo announced on Wednesday that he Government scientists accused by the public after taking a leave of absence extended the coronavirus crisis in the November election to harm Trump’s interests and seemed to imply that Trump’s supporters planned an armed uprising. Caputo said that Verma “will continue the government’s unprecedented success in changing the US medical system.”
see:House Democrat investigating whether officials have intervened in CDC coronavirus data
The report released on Thursday was prepared by Democratic staff from two Senate and two House committees. The Inspector General of the Ministry of Health and Human Services (a subsidiary of Verma) published similar findings in July.
The report on Thursday stated that in addition to revitalizing Verma’s image, these consultants also led the communication strategy of the fashion brokerage company and obtained sensitive internal information that may affect the financial market.
The report said that Marcus Barlow, a consultant who previously worked for Verma in an Indiana company, charged the health insurance agency for hours equivalent to full-time employees and had decision-making power over certain federal workers.
Investigators wrote that the consultant arranged a private meeting between Verma and the conservative Fox News host and the editor of Women’s Day and Women’s Health Magazine.
A memo recommended that Verma be included in the Washington Magazine’s list of Washington’s most powerful women.
Another document shows that the contractor must pay at least $13,000 to provide Verma’s name for rewards and other activities.
There was also an admission ticket for nearly US$3,000 at the “Girls’ Night in Memory of the Administrator” held at the residence of Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today.
Page did not know that Verma’s brokerage company paid for the event. USA Today said in a statement that he personally paid more than $4,000 in fees without reimbursement. The news organization said that “Girls’ Night” has been held for many years, and reporters paid tribute to politicians from both sides.
The report stated that even if government officials were present, Velma took her consultants to take her on official travel, which increased taxpayers’ expenses. In one instance, Verma went on a three-day trip to California, accompanied by three agent assistants and four consultants, who were paid up to $310 per hour at certain times.
When Verma was governor of Indiana, he worked on health issues under the leadership of Vice President Mike Pence. When Donald Trump tried to repeal the health care law of former President Barack Obama, she clashed with Democrats.