Tavenner wins Senate committee, provider support to head CMS

Marilyn Tavenner was unanimously endorsed Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which has been without a permanent administrator since 2006.

The nomination of Tavenner, who has been acting administrator since late 2011, now moves to the full Senate for approval.

Committee Republicans responded well to Tavenner's vows to run CMS "as a business" and to her background in the private sector, Reuters reported. As President Barack Obama's nominee, she also had universal backing from committee Democrats.

After navigating criticism shortly after becoming acting administrator and warnings last spring that she would not be confirmed, Tavenner went into her April 9 confirmation hearing with support from several key healthcare associations.

"She has worked to reduce red tape and regulatory burden to ensure that more providers' time and resources are spent on caring for patients ... and pioneered new payment methods that offer opportunities to provide better patient-centered care more efficiently," Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, wrote in a letter to the Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association urged swift confirmation by the full Senate.

 "CMS has been led by acting administrators for many years, and during this important time for the Medicare and Medicaid programs it is important to have a strong, well-qualified leader who is able to build consensus," AMA President Jeremy Lazarus, M.D., said Wednesday in a in a statement. "Marilyn Tavenner has shown that she is the right person for the job."

The National Association of Public Hospital and Health Systems had been on record supporting Tavenner's nomination since February.

"Ms. Tavenner has a long and distinguished background in health care and a particularly keen understanding of hospitals and health systems," Bruce Siegel, M.D., president and CEO of NAPH, said in a statement at the time. "We look forward to her confirmation and a continued productive working relationship with CMS."

However, not long after receiving a unanimous endorsement by the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has placed a hold on Tavenner's nomination, which indefinitely blocks a full Senate vote.

To learn more:
- here's the Reuters article
- read the AHA letter (.pdf)
- see the AMA statement
- check out the NAPH statement (.pdf)