Marilyn Tavenner is the New Medicare Chief

rod President Obama has nominated someone new to take over as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Previously, that position was held by Dr. Donald M. Berwick. Now, it will be held by Marilyn Tavenner, instead.

Until recently, Dr. Donald Berwick was the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He was selected by President Obama for that position. This nomination was controversial, and so, he was never actually confirmed by the Senate.

Some Republicans felt that Dr. Donald Berwick was in favor of health care rationing. Many Democrats, on the other hand, note that Dr. Berwick is the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, (which is based in Boston), and that many major health industry groups backed his nomination.

Since he was never confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Donald Berwick held got a “recess appointment” from President Obama in 2010. This will expire on December 31, 2011. However, he will actually step down from being administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on December 2, 2011.

He will be replaced by Marilyn Tavenner, who will serve on an acting basis through the confirmation process. She is a nurse, and has been the agency’s principal deputy administrator.

She has already been playing a key role in overseeing changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Tavenner’s ideas about how to control health care costs are very similar to Berwick’s ideas about this issue. It seems there will be some continuity between how Berwick was doing things and how Tavenner will do things.

Previous to working for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, Tavenner was a secretary at Virginia’s Health and Human Services department. She oversaw 12 agencies that, together, had 18,000 workers. She also spent 25 years working for Hospital Corporation of American (which is a for-profit organization). She started as a nurse, and eventually became president of outpatient services.

It is expected that Marilyn Tavenner will not be officially nominated right away. We know that many Republicans did not want to approve of her predecessor, Dr. Donald M. Berwick, and we know that at least some of her views are similar to his views about how to manage Medicare and Medicaid. Tavenner also is against efforts made by Republicans to turn Medicaid into a block grant, because she feels it would limit the amount of federal funding that the states would receive for their programs.

Image by Neff Conner on Flickr

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