Obama renominates Tavenner to head CMS

President Obama yesterday renominated Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and oversee health reform implementation. Although backed by hospital groups, Tavenner's nomination may not be confirmed by the Senate, if history is any indication.

There has not been a Senate-confirmed nominated administrator since 2006, Reuters reported. The Senate did not support Tavenner's predecessor, Don Berwick, nor has it held a hearing to confirm Tavenner. 

Berwick, known for controversial statements likened to rationing healthcare and socialism, resigned in 2011 amid an absence of Republican support. In March 2011, 42 Republican senators vowed to block his nomination, arguing Berwick's recess appointment was unconstitutional and that no Senator (Democrat or Republican) had the opportunity to ask Berwick any questions before he took charge of CMS.

Tavenner, who has been more politically palatable and not known to be tied to a particular agenda, has elicited the support of some Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Politico reported.

She will oversee the agency that has a budget of $820 billion--more than the defense budget, as the senators noted--and will be charged with carrying out key provisions of health reform, including new coverage for millions of Americans and Medicaid expansion.

The American Hospital Association backed the nomination with "enthusiastic … support" for the nurse and healthcare executive.

"[S]he is a very capable leader of the Medicare and Medicaid programs," AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said in a statement yesterday.

Tavenner also has support from the Federation of American Hospitals and the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.

Nevertheless, any Obama nominee for the position will be a hard sell in the divided Senate, The Hill's Healthwatch reported.

For more information:
- here's the White House notice
- see the Reuters article
- read the Senate letter (.pdf)
- read the Politico article
- see the AHA statement, FAH statement and NAPH statement (.pdfs)
- here's the Hill article

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