POLITICO: Verma-Azar feud extends into coronavirus era

“Even in the midst of coronavirus, the Trump administration’s top health officials are competing for attention.”

“Medicare administrator Seema Verma announced on Tuesday night that hospitals could tap $30 billion in ‘no-strings-attached’ coronavirus grants — a move that won her plaudits from health care providers but also one that her rival, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, had planned to make, according to three people close to the situation. Azar, however, was away from Washington because of the death of his father, and two of his advocates in the agency insist Verma should have waited for his return the next day.”

“Verma and Azar last year often competed to claim credit for President Donald Trump’s health care initiatives, jousting over public appearances and even seats on the presidential plane. The long-running battle culminated in a December showdown at the White House during which Vice President Mike Pence and then-acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney attempted to settle the simmering dispute.”

“While the two health officials briefly tamped down their feud, Verma was initially left off the White House coronavirus task force chaired this year by Azar, before being added to the group after Pence took over leadership at the end of February. The White House has increasingly promoted Verma as a public face of its coronavirus response while steadily sidelining Azar.”

“On Tuesday, she took the stage at the White House’s daily coronavirus news briefing and made an announcement eagerly anticipated by hospitals and health organizations: ‘The health care providers that are receiving these dollars can essentially spend that in any way that they see fit.’”

“But the announcement came after some behind-the-scenes drama, according to three people close to the situation: Verma had privately argued against the plan…” Read the full article here.

Source: Verma-Azar feud extends into coronavirus era – By Dan Diamond, April 8, 2020. POLITICO.

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