Berwick to step down at CMS, Obama nominates Tavenner

After a political impasse, in which Republicans effectively blocked his Senate confirmation, Donald Berwick, MD, will step down next week as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. President Obama has nominated CMS principal deputy Marilynn Tavenner as Berwick's replacement.

Berwick will officially step down on Dec. 2, at which point Tavenner will take over as interim administrator until a Senate vote to confirm her. Tavenner has served as CMS’ principal deputy administrator and, prior to that, as the former secretary of Virginia’s health and human services department. Tavenner has also been a nurse, an executive at the Hospital Corporation of America and a trustee at the American Hospital Association.

“I’m glad the White House opted against another end run around the Senate and instead has put forward a CMS nominee that the Senate must thoroughly examine,” said U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, in a statement following the news. “Any nominee to a federal agency with this much power and authority over the lives of millions of Americans must be carefully scrutinized. Republicans on the Finance Committee look forward to examining her record and gaining an understanding of her views of Medicare, Medicaid and the President’s health law.”

Berwick’s fate at CMS was essentially sealed by the 42 GOP senators who declared their opposition to his nomination.

During his time at CMS Berwick was very involved in planning and implementation of health reform, including the triple aim of improved patient-centered care that bolsters population health at a lower cost.

The Senate is expected to vote on Tavenner next year.