Former CMS administrator to become AHIP CEO

The former nurse and hospital executive will represent health insurance companies.
By Tom Sullivan
02:47 PM
Marilyn Tavenner

Former CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner is the new chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans.

AHIP announced on Wednesday that Tavenner, a former nurse and hospital executive before working at CMS, will begin on August 24, 2015. When she does, the 64-year-old Tavenner will succeed Karen Ignagni, 61, who left AHIP after 22 years to step into the CEO role at EmblemHealth in New York.

"There is no better individual than Marilyn to lead our industry through the increasingly complex healthcare transformation," said AHIP Board Chair Mark Ganz, the CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, the parent of the Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield companies, in a prepared statement. "Marilyn is a recognized leader who brings the experience, tenacity and dedication to achieve our advocacy goals and to move the health system forward in a way that is patient-centered."

Tavenner began her healthcare career in 1981 as a nurse at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. In 1993, Tavenner took over as CEO of Johnston-Willis and then in 2001 was named president of parent company Hospital Corporation of America’s central Atlantic operations and later group president of outpatient services.

She left HCA in 2015 to serve as Virginia's Health and Human Resources Secretary under Democratic Governor Tim Kaine.

From there, Tavenner moved into the Administrator role at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, replacing the politically contentious Donald Berwick, MD, to become the first CMS Administrator confirmed by the U.S. Senate in seven years.

"Tavenner's tenure was marked by the disastrous initial launch of the health insurance exchanges in October 2013," Healthcare IT News sister site Healthcare Payer News Editor Anthony Brino reports. "But she also oversaw implementation of other key Affordable Care Act reforms – federal regulation of individual insurance markets, Medicare Advantage rate reductions, Medicare ACOs, hospital quality transparency initiatives, state Medicaid waivers, the meaningful use EHR incentive program (which in some ways may be even more problematic than the rollout)."

When Tavenner resigned from CMS in February of 2015, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell credited her with make the Medicare Trust Funds solvent until 2030, and pointed to her focus on healthcare quality as one of the reasons the nation has achieved a 17 percent reduction in hospital-acquired conditions, saved some 50,000 lives and $12 billion.

"I am honored to join this association," Tavenner said. "And to lead this industry that is deeply committed to improving care delivery and affordability for individuals and families."