Washington Update

Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner Testifies before the Senate Finance Committee, Nomination is Placed on “Hold”

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On April 9, 2013, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate Finance Committee (testimony); after which she was endorsed for the permanent post by the Committee’s Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In her testimony she stated: “We (CMS) have an $820 billion dollar business to run that a large amount of this country has a stake in, from beneficiaries to providers to hospitals to insurance companies to Congress to the administration to our CMS employees and contractors…. We need to operate CMS as a business and act like business partners.”

CMS oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ($901 billion in the FY 2014 budget), and has an overall budget of $1 trillion. Tavenner has been with CMS for three years, and has been acting in an interim capacity for 18 months.

In a late-breaking development, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) placed a “hold” on Tavenner’s nomination to be administrator of CMS. In a recent appropriations hearing, Sen. Harkin said he was “greatly disappointed” that the Administration took money from the Affordable Care Act prevention fund to pay for implementing the new health law exchanges. Sen. Harkin complained that Health and Human Services was taking $54 million from a program included in the prevention fund aimed at combating health disparities among African Americans and Latinos. “Robbing [the] prevention [fund] when we know these efforts can improve people’s health and lower health care costs goes against the very mission of health care reform,” Sen. Harkin said during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education Subcommittee. According to the Senator’s staff, “The Senator expects an ongoing conversation about the future of the prevention fund.”

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