Seema Verma, a former consultant to then-Gov. Mike Pence, Trump appointee, and current administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asked taxpayers to cover $47,000 in stolen jewelry, clothing, and other items that were taken from her rental car during a work trip, as first reported by Politico. Now, Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts is calling for Verma to resign because of the reported “gross misuse of public funds.”
From the jump of this story, one might wonder: With jewelry worth so much, wouldn’t one get insurance? One might think, surely, yes, but, apparently, the jewelry wasn’t insured. In the end, Verma was reimbursed less than $3,000 from the federal health department. The department does not reimburse jewelry.
“The irony is not lost on me that an administrator of health care services for tens of millions of people had decided to forgo insurance and was looking for a government bailout,” Kennedy said. “That’s the entire point of insurance.”
For the curious, Verma’s lost property claim reportedly includes more than 20 pieces of jewelry. An Ivanka Trump-brand pendant made of gold, prasiolite, and diamonds that was appraised at $5,900 is on the list (see note below). Other items included $325 for moisturizer, $349 for noise-canceling headphones, and about $2,000 for clothing. The claim was filed on Aug. 20, 2018, and referred to items stolen while she was in San Francisco that July.
Salon reports that Verma’s items were stolen while she was giving a speech rallying against Medicare for All. The irony is endless.
”It’s perfectly appropriate that the administrator filed a personal property loss claim for goods stolen while on work travel and this is not an unusual practice for federal employees,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told Politico.
Verma seems to be having a hard run. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Verma are seemingly at each other’s throats in an effort to win Trump’s approval; there’s also a power dynamic inplay, as CMS is part of HHS. Axios reports that their relationship has been so tense, outside lawyers have been called in. Politico reports that both Trump and Pence have had to mediate.
This isn’t even her first run-in with Rep. Kennedy. While Verma testified that her outside contracted public relations work was “consistent” with CMS practice, Kennedy has called her out for it totaling in the millions in taxpayer dollars.
Here’s a clip from that congressional hearing.
“We have now seen a systemic effort by the administrator to use public funds to elevate her own position,” Kennedy stressed to Politico in an interview.
NOTE: The Ivanka Trump piece that was “stolen” features prasiolite, a not-at-all precious stone that goes for about $1.00 per carat.