Berwick Leaves CMS, Tavenner Slated for Leadership Role

The Obama Administration intends to nominate Marilyn Tavenner to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), after Dr. Donald Berwick steps down as administrator on Dec. 2, according to an email from the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Marilyn’s distinguished career in health care and deep knowledge of our efforts to implement health reform make her the right person for this job at this moment in history,” said Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, in an email to colleagues dated Nov. 23.

Berwick has served the post since July 2010 through a “recess appointment” by President Obama, rather than a traditional confirmation process, after Senate Republicans expressed their intentions to block his nomination. The former administrator stated his support for Tavenner’s nomination in an email sent to CMS staff.


“You already know, as I do, that [Tavenner] shares deeply our commitment to the important work of CMS especially as we launch new programs that are transforming health and our health care system,” reads the email, which can be read in its entirety at Kaiser Health News. “With Marilyn, our senior leadership team, and the accomplished CMS staff, I am confident that you will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the millions we serve today and those you will serve in the future.”

Others in the health care industry have also voiced their support for Tavenner, who has worked with skilled nursing facility providers during her tenure as Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary prior to becoming principal deputy administrator for CMS.

“Marilyn Tavenner is a strong choice to lead CMS because of her reputation as a smart, competent administrator, and because she has a strong working knowledge of how Medicare and Medicaid funding adequacy are both integral to the ongoing ability of SNFs to provide high quality long term and post-acute care to U.S. seniors,” said Alan Rosenbloom, president of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, in a statement.


He went on to encourage the Senate Finance Committee to “expeditiously consider Ms. Tavenner’s nomination upon submission,” looking toward a confirmation before the end of 2011.

“The Alliance looks forward to working with Ms. Tavenner to ensure that regulatory changes such as therapy reforms and payment adjustments are implemented in a manner that ensures stability in the SNF sector,” he said.

The American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living similarly expressed support.

“AHCA/NCAL has enjoyed a constructive, positive relationship with Administrator Berwick and we look forward to continuing this meaningful dialogue with Interim Director Tavenner,” said the associations’ president and CEO, Governor Mark Parkinson, in a statement. “On a personal level, Marilyn Tavenner shares our commitment for the elderly and I look forward to working in stronger partnership with her in the future.”

Until Tavenner is nominated and then confirmed by the Senate, she will serve as interim administrator, according to Sebelius’ email. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, has previously stated that the finance panel will “thoroughly vet” the prospective nominee, according to The Hill, but did not “immediately express opposition to her nomination.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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