I opened up Twitter yesterday morning to the best hashtag I’ve seen in a long time: #SeemaVerma. I yelped and jumped out of my seat in excitement. Seema Verma! Seema Verma! I took to the socials and posted my excitement at President-elect Trump nominating her to take over for Andy Slavitt as head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And all my friends said…who?
As I looked around the web, I realized the rest of the country was asking the same thing. At the risk of sounding like a fangirl, Seema Verma is just plain awesome. I met her 3 years ago when a small group of doctors (like, 3) were frustrated with being frustrated in a post-ACA world and wanted to find solutions.
We scoured the web for innovators, called them up, and asked if they’d come to Michigan to talk to some doctors. For those who don’t know already, Seema Verma was one of the principle architects of the “Healthy Indiana Plan”, an innovative program that piloted the concept of using an HSA for Medicaid-eligible individuals. Because of this, she was tops on our list of “dream speakers”. As it turned out, she was the first person to sign up to speak! In addition to cutting short her vacation in the middle of a beautiful summer so she could come talk to us, she did it for free. She’s that awesome.
I searched my archives and was able to find the video recording of her talk, and it’s as good as I remember. The ideas of the Healthy Indiana Plan rocked my world, and that of the doctors and lawmakers in attendance. Seeing alternatives like this transforms the way you look at Medicaid. Listening to her again, I am just thrilled that a woman like this, who really gets what physicians and patients are dealing with, is going to run CMS.
Watching this video again is also very humbling to me. The conference was a bare-bones, fly-by-the-seat of our pants event. It was put together by three doctors, none of the speakers asked for speaking fees, we begged and borrowed meeting space and AV supplies. Yet the hunger to learn about innovative healthcare policy was so strong, we had physicians flying across the country to attend.
Most exciting in retrospect, if you look closely, you’ll see some of the Giants in healthcare policy and innovation in the audience. Three years ago, we were just a ragtag bunch, bouncing ideas off each other, trying to find a way. Now these presenters and folks in the audience are national policy leaders. This speaks to the importance of physicians engaging in the process, taking risks, being a little rebellious, meeting face to face, and championing new ideas.
So, who is Seema Verma? Well, watch the video and see for yourself.
Addendum: For those curious about my handmade sign on the podium. Docs4PatientCare donated the AV team and AAPS sponsored a much-needed cocktail party after the conference. The conference was truly the work of 3 Michigan physicians, from arranging speakers, venue, caterers, flights, hotels, drivers, CME accreditation, graphic design, webdesign, print media, email lists, invitations, social media….you name it…all while working full time jobs. I have 3 days of post-event migraine to prove it was our conference, while at the same time, I will be ever grateful to D4PC and AAPS for believing in us, our vision, and our ability to pull it off. Even I didn’t believe in us at the time!