Senate confirms Tavenner as CMS chief

Response from healthcare stakeholders upbeat

Marilyn Tavenner’s confirmation as official administrator of CMS immediately drew positive reactions from nearly every corner of the industry and government, as several healthcare stakeholders reacted to the 91-7 landslide Senate vote that took place late Wednesday. Tavenner is the first administrator in nine years to receive Senate confirmation.

The American Medical Association president Jeremy Lazarus, MD, said that the AMA “is very pleased the Senate has confirmed Marilyn Tavenner as administrator of CMS. As acting administrator, she has demonstrated her ability to be a capable and effective leader,” Lazarus said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the administrator to strengthen the Medicare system to improve health outcomes for patients and the practice environment for physicians.”

[See also: Tavenner draws wide bipartisan support at Senate confirmation.]

Lazarus’ statement was similar to ones issued by other healthcare industry associations, including the American Hospital Association, American Health Care Association, Federation of American Hospitals – many, if not most, of which pointed to her successes as acting administrator as well as Tavenner’s experience as a nurse and in both private sector and government jobs; prior to serving as former Virginia secretary of health and human services, Tavenner worked at the Hospital Corporation of America, first as a nurse and, ultimately, as president of outpatient services.

The general consensus among associations is that Tavenner’s career prepared her “to reduce red tape and regulatory burden to ensure that more providers' time and resources are spent on caring for patients,” as AHA president Rich Umberstock said in a statement. “Marilyn’s varied and rich background as a nurse, health care executive and government official at both the state and national levels gives her a unique perspective and demonstrates that she is a very capable leader of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

Within the federal government, bipartisan support for Tavenner was so strong that even House Majority Leader and Obamacare foe Eric Cantor (R-Va.) went to the Senate Finance Committee hearing on April 9 and said “if there is anyone that I trust to try to navigate the challenges, it is Marilyn Tavenner,” Politico reported.

Among the seven votes of dissent in Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, however, was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“By giving the CMS administrator the primary role in implementing Obamacare, with the responsibility for issuing and enforcing thousands of pages of new regulations, rules and requirements, the Obama administration has changed the central focus of this job,” McConnell said in a statement, according to Politico. “The new administrator’s time and focus will be diverted on what my Democratic colleagues have called an impending ‘train wreck,’ rather than strengthening Medicare and Medicaid at a time when they face enormous challenges.”

[See also: Berwick to step down at CMS, Obama nominates Tavenner.]

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