McClellan To Resign
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan announced on Tuesday that he will resign, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. He said he will leave the agency in about five weeks and likely will take a position with a think tank where he could focus on ways to improve the U.S. health care system.
He said, "It's just time. We've gotten a lot accomplished, and I'm very confident about the track the agency is on" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5).
In an e-mail to agency employees, McClellan wrote, "This was a hard decision, because this is the most exciting and rewarding place that anyone could ever work." He added, "But I've been in government service for much longer than my family and I had ever expected or prepared for, and after almost six years in this Administration plus service in the previous Administration as well, I'm looking forward to more dinners at home with Steph and our daughters" (Lee, Washington Post, 9/5).
The Dallas Morning News on Saturday first reported speculation that he would leave the position (Hillman, Dallas Morning News, 9/2).
McClellan -- a medical doctor and economist -- was sworn in as CMS administrator in March 2004, replacing Tom Scully. He was FDA commissioner from 2002 through 2004, prior to which he was a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and a senior health policy aide to President Bush (Lee, Washington Post, 9/4). He previously taught economics and medicine at Stanford University.
As CMS administrator, McClellan oversees Medicaid and Medicare -- which together provide health benefits for about 90 million U.S. residents -- and manages a federal budget of about $600 billion (Zhang, Wall Street Journal, 9/5). One of his primary responsibilities during his tenure at CMS was administering the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which began in January (Washington Post, 9/4).
His resignation coincides with contract negotiations between Medicare and the private insurance companies that sponsor Medicare prescription drug plans, the Times reports. In addition, his departure comes "amid the midterm election campaigns, during which his handling of the new Medicare drug benefit has become an issue," according to the Times.
Another "big piece of unfinished business" is the proposed cuts in Medicare physician payment rates, which are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2007, if Congress does not take action to stop the cuts, the Times reports. McClellan has proposed a 5.1% cut for 2007, with similar reductions in later years.
CMS Deputy Administrator Leslie Norwalk "is an obvious candidate to serve as acting administrator," although other officials also are being consider for the post, according to a White House official, the Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 9/5).
Herb Kuhn, director of the Center for Medicare Management at CMS, is also a potential nominee, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 9/4).
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, "He'll be missed by the president and the entire administration" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/5).
John Rother, policy director for AARP, said, "His major responsibility has been to implement the Medicare Modernization Act and the drug benefit, which I think he has done extremely well." Rother added, "Obviously, he has a very bright future, and I'm sure he's got other options that are very attractive," noting that "a lot of people who know him thought that this would be a good year for him to move on" (Washington Post, 9/4).
Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said, "He's done what he's signed on to do, and in impressive fashion." Kahn added that the Bush administration's implementation of quality of care measures in the hospital system "is taking place and is set in motion" (CQ HealthBeat, 9/4).
Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said McClellan "was always on message." Hayes added, "He said the new [drug benefit] was running fine when the roof was caving in. But I do respect him. He was responsive when we brought individual cases of hardship to his attention" (New York Times, 9/5).