President Trump’s pick to run Medicare and Medicaid won confirmation Monday from a divided Senate as lawmakers braced for another epic battle over the government’s role in health care and society’s responsibility toward the vulnerable.

Indiana health care consultant Seema Verma, a protégé of Vice President Pence, was approved by a 55-43 vote, largely along party lines. She’ll head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a $1 trillion agency that oversees health insurance programs for more than 130 million people, from elderly nursing home residents to newborns. It’s part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

. . .

According to the CBO, able-bodied adults on Medicaid receive about $6,000 a year in government health-insurance benefits. They pay no premiums and minimal copays. You’d think that eligible individuals would need no prodding to sign up for such a benefit.

And yet, according to its analysis of the GOP ObamaCare replacement, the CBO believes that there are five million Americans who wouldn’t sign up for Medicaid if it weren’t for ObamaCare’s individual mandate. You read that right: Five million people need the threat of a $695 fine to sign up for a free program that offers them $6,000 worth of subsidized health insurance.

. . .

The Senate is advancing Seema Verma, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Senators voted 54-44 Thursday on her nomination, which needed only a simple majority to overcome the initial procedural hurdle.

The Senate could take a final vote on Verma on Friday night, but her confirmation is expected to be kicked to Monday.

. . .

No single bill will fix all the challenges Medicaid faces, but Congress and the president have a historic opportunity to adopt permanent reforms. Working together with governors and state Medicaid reformers, we can empower states with new statutory flexibilities. We can modernize the waiver process so states can focus on managing their programs based on the needs of their patients, not managing paperwork for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. We can create better tools and incentives for states to reduce costs, boost quality and improve health outcomes.

. . .

Given the focus on the disastrous launch of the Obamacare insurance Exchanges in 2013, many people don’t know that most of Obamacare’s coverage gains have come not through those Exchanges, but through a new expansion of Medicaid to able-bodied, working-age adults.

Medicaid was originally intended to provide important safety net coverage to vulnerable populations such as individuals with disabilities, low-income children and the elderly, among others.  But Obamacare’s massive expansion of this entitlement to able-bodied adults has placed added strain on an already stressed program in many states.

Even prior to Obamacare, Medicaid stood in desperate need of reform. In many states, low physician reimbursement rates resulted in poor access for beneficiaries. One supporter of the program called a Medicaid card a “hunting license”—the chance for beneficiaries to try to find a doctor who will treat them.

. . .

The shaky case for the individual mandate is based on mistaken premises, faulty economic analysis, short-sighted politics, and flawed health policy. Opponents have found the mandate to be administratively challenging, politically unsustainable, economically unnecessary, beyond the proper role of government, and constitutionally questionable. Arguments in favor of the individual mandate usually present it as a necessary, though far less popular, means to more laudable ends.

. . .

Congressional Republicans have been struggling for months to resolve one of the most vexing problems in their tortuous effort to replace the Affordable Care Act: What to do about the generous federal funding for states that broadened their Medicaid programs under the law, while not shortchanging the 19 states that balked at expansion?

Now, as the House begins to hone details of its legislative proposal, a possible compromise has emerged. It would temporarily keep federal dollars flowing to cover almost the entire cost of the roughly 11 million Americans who have gained Medicaid coverage but would block that enhanced funding for any new participants.

. . .

America spends too much on Medicaid relative to other programs and services that might have a bigger impact on measured health outcomes for the poor. Giving states more flexibility in reaching these broad population health goals and better tools for measuring their progress would help states and the federal government scale up what works, while phasing out what doesn’t. Seema Verma, Trump’s pick to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, called for CMS “as the nation’s largest purchaser of health care…[to] do more, achieve more than the mere distribution of insurance cards,” saying it should use its programs to “truly make a difference in people’s lives to prevent and cure disease, manage chronic illnesses, and promote healthy lifestyles and independence from government assistance.”

. . .

Let the states derive their own health care solutions, particularly when it comes to cost containment. That’s why we may need to look to six states that are aggressively working to contain costs. The Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee legislatures are considering a proposal to eliminate defensive medicine by abolishing each state’s medical malpractice system and replace it with a no-blame model similar to workers’ compensation. Two other states are also examining the concept. When doctors are no longer the target of litigation, they would be less likely to order unnecessary tests, medications and procedures.

. . .

House Republicans are weighing specific reforms to Medicaid that could be included in a reconciliation measure to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

How to deal with the federal expansion of Medicaid under the ACA is one of the main unanswered questions as Congress works to overhaul Obamacare — one that has exposed divisions between the House’s most conservative members and GOP lawmakers from states that chose to expand the federal program for low-income Americans.

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), the vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said Tuesday that lawmakers are considering what types of reforms — specifically shifting to per capita allotments or allowing states to choose block grants — could be included in a House reconciliation bill to repeal the ACA.

. . .