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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "State has paid millions to health-care expert who also works for vendor"

That is the headline to a major story, reported by Tony Cook, topping the front-page of today's Sunday Indianapolis Star. A few quotes from the long story, which is not yet available online [Updated on 8/25 - now available here; for whatever reason the reporter kept it offline until Monday morning]:

Meet the architect of Gov. Mike Pence’s signature health-care plan, Seema Verma.

For more than a decade, the littleknown private consultant has quietly shaped much of Indiana’s public healthcare policy. The state has paid her millions of dollars for her work — amid a potential conflict of interest that ethics experts say should concern taxpayers.

Largely invisible to the public, Verma’s work has included the design of the Healthy Indiana Plan, a consumerdriven insurance program for low-income Hoosiers now being touted nationally as an alternative to Obamacare. In all, Verma and her small consulting firm, SVC Inc., have received more than $3.5 million in state contracts.

At the same time, Verma has worked for one of the state’s largest Medicaid vendors — a division of Silicon Valley tech giant Hewlett-Packard. That company agreed to pay Verma more than $1 million and has landed more than $500 million in state contracts during her tenure as Indiana’s go-to health-care consultant, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Verma’s dual roles raise an important question: Who is she working for when she advises the state on how to spend billions of dollars in Medicaid funds — Hoosier taxpayers or one of the state’s largest contractors?

In a written statement, Verma said unequivocally that she played no role in HP’s contracts with the state. “SVC has disclosed to both HP and the state the relationship with the other to be transparent,” Verma said. “If any issue between HP and the state presented a conflict between the two, I recused myself from the process.”

But the recently ousted head of the state agency administering Verma’s contract told The Star that Verma once attempted to negotiate with state officials on behalf of Hewlett-Packard, while also being paid by the state. HP said it can find no one in its company with any recollection of such a meeting. Verma declined to answer further questions about her work with the state or HP. Verma’s dual roles have surprised some leading Republican lawmakers and expose one of many loopholes in Indiana’s government ethics laws. Ethics experts consulted by The Star called the arrangement a conflict of interest that potentially puts Indiana taxpayers at risk. If Verma were working for the federal government, they point out, she would have to show how the government was protected, or step aside.

Here is the website for SVC: Strategic Health Policy Solutions. Here is the page describing the backgrounds of the "the team."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 24, 2014 11:09 AM
Posted to Indiana Government