Tavenner Earns Praise, Could Face Smoother Path to Confirmation
On Monday, several more health care stakeholders endorsed the Obama administration's nomination of Marilyn Tavenner to replace outgoing CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/28).
Meanwhile, lawmakers indicated that Tavenner, the agency's principal deputy administrator, likely will face a smoother confirmation process than Berwick did (Baker, The Hill, 11/28).
Berwick -- who has held the leadership post at CMS since July 2010 -- announced last week that he will step down on Dec. 2. When President Obama announced Berwick's nomination in April 2010, Republicans alleged that he supports rationing care and the socialization of the U.S. health care system.
Obama then chose to sidestep the traditional Senate confirmation process by using "recess appointment" procedures, prompting the GOP to complain that it had few opportunities to question him.
Recess appointment rules stipulated that Berwick's initial tenure would end in December 2011, which would require the Obama administration to re-nominate him. However last spring, more than 40 GOP senators asked the White House to withdraw its support and threatened to block Berwick's confirmation.
Support for Tavenner's Nomination
The administration's nomination of Tavenner immediately drew the support of the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges (California Healthline, 11/28).
On Monday, the American Medical Association in a statement formally endorsed her nomination. The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care and the Federation of American Hospitals also voiced support for Tavenner's nomination.
In a statement, FAH President and CEO Chip Kahn said Tavenner is "an ideal candidate to head CMS, and we encourage the Senate to approve her nomination quickly" (The Hill, 11/28).
AQNHC President Alan Rosenbloom, in a separate statement, said, "We encourage the Senate Finance Committee to expeditiously consider Tavenner's nomination upon submission, and respectfully urge the U.S. Senate to confirm her before the end of the year" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/28).
Tavenner Could Have Smoother Vetting Than Berwick
Although Berwick faced strong criticism during his tenure, National Journal reports that Tavenner's low profile on Capitol Hill could ease her path toward confirmation.
According to National Journal, Tavenner never testified before Congress during the hearings on the federal health reform law. In addition, she has held senior management positions in corporate settings, which observers say better prepares her for the job of CMS administrator.
Rich Tarplin, an HHS official in the Clinton administration, said, "The politics of health reform obscured the fact [that] this is ultimately a job of managing a large structure with complex, vital programs," adding, "Tavenner has the perfect background and experience to do this successfully."
Although Senate Republicans have not explicitly endorsed Tavenner, prominent Republicans outside of Congress have praised her nomination.
Former CMS administrators Thomas Scully and Gail Wilensky have called Tavenner a good candidate for the position. However, prominent members of liberal groups note that Tavenner was CEO of a Virginia hospital in a system that was accused by the FBI in 1997 of defrauding Medicare (McCarthy, National Journal, 11/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.