COVID-19: Seema Verma leading telemedicine push

By SATimes Team

To keep seniors safe at home, Medicare under its Indian American administrator is expanding telemedicine.

Washington: A top Indian American official, Seema Verma, is leading a push for a ground-breaking telemedicine initiative using laptops and phones and apps like Skype to ease the burden of growing novel coronavirus cases and the threat of infections.

The telemedicine initiative covering 62 million seniors is a “swift and bold action” for them to get help without having to go to their doctor and expose themselves to the coronavirus, said Verma, who is the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), on Tuesday at a briefing with President Donald Trump.

Also, “clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries,” she said.

Officials around the country are discouraging people, especially the elderly, from travelling even within cities because of threats of exposure to the virus. The Silicon Valley is under a semi-lockdown, which New York City was considering this week.

Under the telehealth program Varma unveiled, patients can consult their doctors or other medical professionals in real-time using devices like computers, laptops, pads, smartphones and phones and apps like Skype for routine consultations on, for example, diabetes or to determine if their health condition requires them to be tested for COVID-19, she said.

“It helps us prevent the spread of the virus,” Verma said.

She asked relatives or neighbors of patients to help them with telehealth communications if they cannot themselves use it or don’t have the equipment.

“If it’s your mom, you may need to go over to her house to help her,” she said.

The program she unveiled expands a very limited telemedicine program that was being tried.

Verma heads the federal government’s two separate insurance programs, the paid Medicare for seniors covering 62 million people, and the free Medicaid for the poor 71 million.

As a member of the Coronavirus Task Force headed by Vice President Mike Pence, she appears alongside Trump in the nationally televised daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic.

She is one of the most influential officials in Trump’s administration overseeing healthcare for 133 million people, about 40 percent of the US population.

She had come under some criticism from the liberal media for repeatedly evading the question of shortage of coronavirus tests during an appearance on Fox News last week.  

In addition to her criticism of the ACA (also known as ObamaCare), Verma has voiced opposition to Medicare for All, the health care proposal supported by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and others.

In addition to her criticism of the ACA (also known as ObamaCare), Verma has voiced opposition to Medicare for All, the health care proposal supported by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and others.

She has stated that red tape is a major problem plaguing government-run health care programs.

“As the head of the Medicare program, I see every day that government regulations kind of stand in the way, that there are delays in our beneficiaries being able to access treatments,” she said. “That is why putting more people on a government program is actually going to threaten the sustainability of the programs that we have in place today.”

Verma had worked closely with Pence when he was Governor of Indiana state on reshaping healthcare. Before joining the administration – reportedly on the Vice President’s reference, she had headed a national health policy consulting  company, SVC Inc., that provided consultancy to the Indiana state government. SVC was acquired by Health Management Associates (HMA) prior to her nomination to head Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Ms. Verma received her Master’s degree in Public Health with concentration in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University and her Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences from the University of Maryland.

Born in Virginia, Verma moved several times across the United States with her family and once lived in Taiwan for five years before settling in the greater Indianapolis area, according to Wikipedia. Her husband Sanjay is a child psychiatrist who runs a medical practice through the Indiana Health Group. The couple has two children, Maya and Shaan. Verma and her family currently live in Carmel, Indiana.

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