Obama nominates Slavitt to head CMS

'Care providers and patients should begin to feel the benefit of all this investment in technology'
By Mike Miliard
01:18 PM
President Obama

Not unexpectedly, President Barack Obama has nominated Andy Slavitt, currently serving as acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to fill the role as administrator.

Slavitt joined CMS from the private sector in 2014, tasked with helping fix the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website. He's served as acting administrator since this past March, after Marilyn Tavenner stepped down from the post.

Already, some Republican Senators are pointing toward a potentially contentious confirmation hearing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the nomination would receive "thorough consideration," according to Reuters. But he also took the opportunity to criticize CMS' role in administering the Affordable Care Act.

"It has long been clear that no one can successfully manage a law as unworkable as Obamacare," he said. "The sole focus of CMS should be to look out for our nation’s seniors and the many vulnerable Americans who use these programs, without the distraction of Obamacare."

Slavitt was previously an executive at Optum, the the health IT division of UnitedHealth, whose QSSI subsidary had a role developing some of the functionality of the federal insurance exchange website.

Republcan Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch suggested the resume should raise some eyebrows.

“Mr. Slavitt’s conflicted history in the medical services industry has produced mixed results and raised a number of serious concerns," said Hatch in a press statement. “Slavitt will need to answer a number of tough questions regarding his former employer and their relationship with the agency."

Speaking at HIMSS15 in Chicago this spring, Slavitt said health information technology has a critical role to play in the coming years, and "will need to be able to accomplish three key things."

First, "care providers and patients should begin to feel the benefit of all this investment in technology." He called it a "care dividend." Second, "we have a great need for a more modern infrastructure for healthcare," said Slavitt. "We need a Moore's Law effect in healthcare productivity if we're going to care for our dual eligible patients and our aging baby boomers."

The third, he said – one "where I have greatest concerns" – is interoperability.

Slavitt spoke of one hospital he'd visited recently that had a great EHR and analytics prowess, but whose physicians "can't follow patients who leave their care to see specialists" or to another hospital.

"To be clear: This won't be acceptable to patients," he said. "It will not be acceptable to care providers, it's not acceptable to taxpayers and it's not acceptable to us."