Chiquita Brooks-LaSure took the helm of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on May 27 after a long Washington, D.C., career in health policy. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said during her confirmation hearing that her role “is clearly one of the most important health care jobs in America.” Brooks-LaSure talked with AARP in August about her vision for the Medicare program, prescription drug prices and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
- Former deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at CMS
- Was a Democratic staff member for the House Ways and Means Committee
- Served as a Medicaid analyst at the Office of Management and Budget
- Was a health policy analyst for several private sector firms, including Manatt Health
- Sworn in as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on May 27
- Born in Willingboro, New Jersey
- Bachelor’s degree in politics from Princeton University
- Master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University
- Married to Allyn Brooks-LaSure, vice president for communications at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
What do you see as the future of Medicare?
Where I can see Medicare going next is Congress increasing drug coverage and lowering prescription drug costs. This is a huge, important need. Administratively, we want to make sure that people can access all the benefits they are entitled to, including the Medicare Savings Programs. We want to continue to see innovation and growth in what we offer participants. And we really want to focus on health equity to make sure the program is working for all enrollees. We want to make sure it stays robust for current beneficiaries and future ones.
Do you foresee Medicare Advantage (MA) plans overtaking original Medicare?
Our role is to make sure that whatever coverage Medicare beneficiaries want to choose is available to them. So we want to make sure to preserve both those options. Part of that is making sure there’s parity. Right now it is easier for MA plans to offer additional benefits than it is for original Medicare. I think that both need to be viable options for people so that they can decide on their own which one they prefer and which makes the most sense for them.
So you believe that original Medicare should offer dental, vision and hearing benefits, as many MA plans do?
That’s going to be a decision for Congress. If Congress passes legislation, I will work to implement that as quickly as we possibly can.