Senate Finance Committee Deliberates Confirmation of Marilyn Tavenner

Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn TavennerMarilyn Tavenner confirmation looks to be a lock

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee held its confirmation hearing on acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Tavenner has served in the role since December of 2011 after Donald Berwick, MD, stepped down. By all accounts of the hearing, Obama’s nominee to head up CMS looks to be a shoe in, gaining praise from both Republicans and Democrats.

Below are what some of the media reported from yesterday’s hearing.

From Politico’s Marilyn Tavenner soars through Senate Finance hearing: “Even though CMS oversees much of Obamacare, those disputes were largely pushed aside as lawmakers focused on quizzing Tavenner on their pet health care issues. Members of both parties did press her to provide more regular updates on implementation of the law. Republicans also demanded that the agency reveal the budget for setting up the health insurance exchanges — a figure the agency has been loath to release. Tavenner pledged to provide biweekly updates on the status of the law and said a price tag on the federal exchange is coming.

Kaiser Health News  interivew‘Remarkably Friendly’ Hearing For Acting Medicare Chief on the differences between Marilyn Tavenner’s positive reception from Republicans and her predecessor Berwick: “I think that they’re two different people, and these are two different times. You have to remember that things were much more volatile when Don Berwick was nominated to be CMS administrator. There were a lot of questions about his endorsement of the British health system. He felt that many of his remarks were taken out of context. But nonetheless, it’s been a different road for Marilyn Tavenner. She has been working [Capitol] Hill since she was named acting administrator. Many members of the Senate talked about their personal meetings that she had with them. And she knew a lot about the items they were bringing up, their concerns. And again, her extensive background as a nurse, as a hospital administrator, working at the state and federal level has given a lot of lawmakers, it seems, comfort with her in this job.”

From the New York Times’ Three Obama Nominees Encounter No Opposition at Senate Confirmation Hearings: Marilyn Tavenner, who has been chosen to run the government’s big health care programs, won endorsement from the House Republican leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who said he had worked with her in his days as a state lawmaker. Ms. Tavenner deflected criticism of Mr. Obama’s health care policies with mild-mannered responses in which she described herself as a pragmatist committed to solving problems, not scoring ideological points.

And finally from Medscape’s article Phase in Medicare Pay-for-Performance, Says Tavenner: As acting CMS administrator, Marilyn Tavenner is revamping Medicare under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reward physicians and hospitals for the quality as opposed to the quantity of their services. During today’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, quoted a healthcare economist who said that CMS should move much more quickly to jettison fee-for-service. “This person said CMS should set a deadline, that 10 years from now, 90% of reimbursement would not be fee-for-service, but based on quality,” Baucus said. Tavenner replied that she hears the opposite complaint from the healthcare industry — that CMS is moving too fast in its reimbursement reforms. “What we’re trying to do is take a measured approach,” Tavenner said. “We probably could move faster in some areas. But I would be very nervous about setting an arbitrary target [for ending fee-for-service]. I’d rather that we do an incremental, aggressive strategy.”

Marilyn Tavenner’s final confirmation as CMS administrator is expected to happen quickly, perhaps as early as next week.