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Tavenner Confirmed as CMS Administrator

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2013

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, also praised Tavenner's "willingness to work with both parties." Noting that she has been the acting administrator since Dec. 2011, Hatch observed that "she has the ability to be a real leader; she has already exemplified that." Still, he cautioned that the CMS administrator is not a job for the faint of heart. "I will be keeping a close eye."

For a time there was concern that Tavenner's nomination might meet the same fate as that of her predecessor, acting administrator Don Berwick, MD. His nomination to head CMS was derailed by members of Congress who were stinging from the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. PresidentObama's decision to name Berwick to the CMS post during a Congressional recess further exacerbated the alienation.

Tavennerjoined CMS in 2010 as principal deputy administrator. In December 2011 she was named acting administrator following Berwick's resignation. Months later Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) declined to schedule a nomination hearing with the Senate Finance Committee over concern that Tavenner couldn't attract the required 60 votes in the full Senate.

But what a difference a year makes. With President Obama re-elected and a new Congress in place, Tavenner's nomination was heard by the Senate Finance Committee in April. She received unanimous voice approval. It helped that she had the support of fellow Virginian, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who described Tavenner as "eminently qualified. If there is anyone that I trust to try to navigate [CMS] challenges, it is Marilyn Tavenner." Although he couldn't vote in the hearing, Cantor's appearance was widely considered as a signal to Senate Republicans that Tavenner was to be confirmed.

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