President Barack Obama re-nominated Marilyn Tavenner to be the administrator in charge of the $820 billion U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Obama asked the Senate in a notice today to confirm the appointment of Tavenner, 61, who has been acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since 2011. The agency, which oversees taxpayer-funded health programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed leader since 2006.
Tavenner will be responsible for implementing the bulk of Obama’s health-care system overhaul, which is estimated to expand medical coverage to about 27 million uninsured people over the next decade. The agency, which has a budget larger than the Defense Department, will likely grow in size as the health-care expansion includes increased Medicaid enrollment.
“With Medicare and Medicaid on an unsustainable fiscal path, the cost of health care continuing to rise, and with the implementation of the health law moving forward, there are many questions she’ll need to fully answer before I decide whether or not to support her,” Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and ranking member of the finance committee that will consider Tavenner’s nomination, said in a statement.
The Federation of American Hospitals, which represents for-profit hospitals, said it supports Tavenner.
“She is the best-qualified person in the country to serve as CMS administrator based upon her outstanding leadership skills, exceptional knowledge of health policy and the health-care industry, experience as a caregiver, and the qualities she already has demonstrated running CMS,” Chip Kahn, president and chief executive officer of the federation, said in a statement.
The previous administrator of the agency under Obama, Donald Berwick, stepped down in 2011 when his appointment expired without the Senate acting to confirm him. Obama nominated Tavenner after Berwick’s departure, and the Senate didn’t act before the 112th Congress ended Jan. 3.
Tavenner, a former nurse and hospital administrator, was secretary of Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources under then-Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat who is now a U.S. senator.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.