CMS under fire for spending millions on communications contractors

Documents obtained by Politico reveal that CMS spent $2.25 million on contractors to revamp the agency's communications strategy and Administrator Seema Verma's image, and among those contractors were eight with close ties to the Trump campaign. 

Politico reports that at least four consultants billed for hundreds of thousands of dollars, including Marcus Barlow, a former spokesperson for Ms. Verma in Indiana, who billed up to $425,000 for a year of work. This contrasts with senior officials in the CMS communications department, who make about $140,000 a year, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who makes $203,500 a year, according to the report.

The contract was ended in April after initial Politico reports. It is now under investigation by the HHS inspector general and several congressional committees. 

A CMS spokesperson told Politico Ms. Verma hired the contractors to improve the agency's ability to communicate policies to people not involved in the healthcare industry. 

In response to the Politico report, Ms. Verma said: "When I came to CMS, my vision for the comms department was very different than what we had. I wanted to make sure that we were communicating with our patient population … and the provider community," according to The Hill. 

Read the full Politico story here.

Read more on Ms. Verma's response here

 

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