Chiquita Brooks-LaSure Makes History Among White House’s Most Diverse Administrations

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

A White House photo featuring dozens of African-American members of the Biden-Harris administration circulated the internet during the early days of Black History Month, and it would be hard to find anyone. as proud as Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

The first black woman to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Brooks-LaSure offered the brightest smile as she mentioned the historic photo featuring Vice President Kamala Harris and a host of black staff members helping to advance the work of the administration.

“I’m so proud and really moved,” said Philadelphia-born Brooks-LaSure.

“When I was nominated, I heard from women across the country, and I hadn’t realized how meaningful it would be to so many people for me to sit in that chair,” he said. she continued. “I have older women and younger women coming to tell me how proud they are. It really inspires me to want to use this role in a way that changes people’s lives, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) wholeheartedly salutes and congratulates Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for her outstanding leadership at CMS Health and Human Services (HHS).

We look forward to expanding the partnership between CMS and NNPA. Medicare and Medicaid are vital to the present and future of African Americans and other communities of color,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr, President and CEO of NNPA.

A former politician who played a crucial role in guiding the Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — through passage and implementation, Brooks-LaSure benefits from decades of experience working in government. and the private sector. As deputy director of policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, and earlier at the Department of Health & Human Services as director of coverage policy, Brooks-LaSure led the agency’s implementation policy provisions and Obamacare coverage. She helped House of Representatives leaders pass several health care laws, including the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, on the Democratic staff of the Committee on ways and means of the House.

As a CMS administrator, Brooks-LaSure oversees programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the health insurance marketplace.

“I was born in Philadelphia, raised in New Jersey and lived in Virginia for much of my life,” said LaSure, who is married and has a young daughter. “I’ve always been interested in politics from an early age,” she explained. “When I was in graduate school, I had a friend who I took classes with in health policy and social policy, and she really put me on the path to health policy. J I’ve always said, “Once you start health, you never look back, because no policy area has the capacity to touch so many lives, especially in the federal government.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on CMS and other agencies, but Brooks-La-Sure recalled similarities to the coming into force of the ACA. “The ACA was born out of a difficult time,” she recalls. “Before we passed the law, not everyone thought we should focus on health policy. We had the Great Recession, and one of the elements of people’s financial security was health care, because one in three bankruptcies resulted from medical expenses. So it became imperative to pass the ACA, and I think we are at the same time today. The pandemic has made it harder to do so much with health policy. »

Brooks-LaSure said Americans now have a better understanding of why health care is vital and why the uninsured and those without access to vaccines and drug treatments affect everyone. “I think people saw health disparities on a different level,” she said. “I think we now have the opportunity to address these [disparities] if we seize this moment.

To that end, Brooks-LaSure noted the six strategic pillars by which CMS would achieve its mission and measure success:

• Advance health equity by
tackling the health disparities that underpin America
health system
• Build on the affordable
Care and Expanding Access Act
affordable and quality health
coverage and care
• Engage partners and the
communities served by CMS
throughout the process of policy development and implementation • Stimulate innovation to tackle
health system challenges
and promote the value,
person-centred care
• Protect CMS’ programs
sustainability for future generations by acting as a responsible steward to the public
• Foster a positive and inclusive work environment and
workforce and promote
excellence in all aspects of
CMS operations

Brooks-LaSure said CMS has already made significant progress on these pillars, focusing its efforts on improving health equity and access to coverage by working across federal agencies. She told NNPA Newswire that a record 14.5 million people signed up for 2022 health care coverage during the enrollment period. “Investing in financial assistance and awareness helps more people access the care they need,” Brooks-LaSure said.

As part of Vice President Kamala Harris’ call to action to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, HHS, through CMS, has taken steps to improve maternal health and support the delivery equitable and high-quality care for pregnancy and postpartum care. CMS has proposed a “Birthing-Friendly” designation to support perinatal health outcomes and improved maternal health equity. According to a statement, the designation would initially identify hospitals that provide perinatal care, participate in a maternity care quality improvement collaboration and implement recommended patient safety practices.

CMS also encouraged states to take advantage of the American Rescue Plan’s option to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.

Brooks-LaSure said history would eventually smile on the unprecedented diversity. “I think representation is so important, and we will have changed this country because so many of us are in these roles with our diverse perspectives that strengthen policy-making,” Brooks-La-Sure said. “The more people you have who come from different backgrounds, you build stronger and better policies and make sure the next generation sees they can fill those roles.”

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