The U.S. Senate confirmed Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week, making her the first Black woman to lead the agency in its near sixty-year history.

Brooks-LaSure, a former policy official who played a vital role in the implementation of Obamacare, will oversee such initiatives as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, The LA Sentinel reports.
“During my career, I’ve seen how communities of color too often experience worse health outcomes, which we’ve seen so acutely during this pandemic,” she said, addressing the Senate.

"Last year in April, my own hometown, a predominantly Black community where my parents still live, experienced higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths compared to much of the surrounding communities. I look forward to working with each of you to expand access to quality care for all communities,” Brooks-LaSure added.

She noted in one of her first interviews since taking the role that her top priorities will be increasing insurance coverage and ensuring equity in healthcare, according to NPR.

"We've seen through the pandemic what happens when people don't have health insurance and how important it is," Brooks-LaSure said. "Our focus is going to be on making sure regulations and policies are going to be focused on improving coverage."

After graduating with her master’s from the McCourt School of Public Policy of Georgetown University in 1999, she served as a managing director at Manatt Health, focusing on assisting clients with the regulatory and legislative policies of private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare.

For four years, Brooks-LaSure worked within Barack Obama's administration at the Department of Health, where she worked as director of coverage policy in the Office of Health Reform and led efforts to develop the Affordable Care Act implementation, according to The Sentinel. 

Following the end of President Obama’s term, she served as deputy center and policy director for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We congratulate Ms. Brooks-LaSure on her historic confirmation,” Chip Kahn, president, and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said in a statement. “While the fight against COVID is not over, as the pandemic winds down, we need to move forward on the broader health care agenda, and I am confident our new Administrator is exceptionally equipped to provide the leadership that is crucial for CMS at this time and beyond.”

Brooks-LaSure’s confirmation aligns with President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to organize a cabinet that is reflective of America’s diversity.

Last month, Attorney Kristen Clarke was confirmed as the first Black woman to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, according to the Winston-Salem Chronicle.

As Blavity previously reported, Karine Jean-Pierre, the Principal Deputy Press Secretary for the White House, became just the second Black woman in history to lead an official White House briefing.

To open the briefing, Jean-Pierre congratulated both Clarke and Brooks-LaSure for making history and breaking new ground in the political sphere.

“The president was proud to nominate Kristen and Chiquita for these positions, thanks the Senate for their bipartisan confirmation and is honored to have them serve in these key leadership positions,” Jean-Pierre said.