CMS head Tavenner announces resignation

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced she will be leaving the agency at the end of February. During her tenure, Ta...

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced she will be leaving the agency at the end of February.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner
During her tenure, Tavenner has overseen the roll out of the health care marketplaces and expansion of Medicaid in the 28 states — plus the District of Columbia — that have requested it, both key provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell accepted Tavenner’s resignation and in a statement, praised the outgoing administrator for successfully implementing broad changes under the health care law.

“It goes without saying that Marilyn will be remembered for her leadership in opening the Health Insurance Marketplace. In so doing, she worked day and night so that millions of Americans could finally obtain the security and peace of mind of quality health insurance at a price they could afford. It’s a measure of her tenacity and dedication that after the tough initial rollout of, she helped right the ship, bringing aboard a systems integrator and overseeing an overhaul of the website,” Burwell said. “She is a big part of the reason why, as of this past spring, roughly 10 million Americans had gained health coverage since last year – the largest increase in four decades.”

Burwell also announced that Principal Deputy Administrator Andy Slavitt will serve as the acting administrator.

In an email obtained by Federal News Radio, Tavenner congratulated the agency on a job well done overseeing much of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation.

“We had many additional challenges put before us to look at ways to improve quality, reduce costs, eliminate fraud, increase transparency, and provide access to millions more of our fellow Americans,” Tavenner said. “With those changes came a whole new set of responsibilities and a spotlight that brightly shown on all of us as we managed the largest federal agency budget, strong opinions across the nation, and our ultimate mission of improving our country’s health care system and saving lives.”

Tavenner joined CMS in February 2010, just weeks before President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

In the past five years, CMS has seen some of the lowest growth in overall health care spending, which is projected to continue into 2015, Tavenner said in her email.

“Medicare Part B premiums have been stable, beneficiaries are saving money on prescription drugs and preventive care, and the solvency of the Medicare Trust Funds was recently extended to 2030,” Tavenner said. “Our delivery system has improved significantly over the last three years and as a result of your efforts, we are delivering better health care to our citizens in need, focusing on prevention to keep our citizens healthy, and spending tax payer dollars more wisely to achieve both goals.”

The Affordable Care Act has also given CMS new administrative powers to fight Medicare fraud. Those new rules have helped implement better provider screening standards and remove over 350,000 providers from Medicare to date, Tavenner said. Using new predictive analytics, the agency now screens every Medicare fee-for- service claim before it’s paid.

“No other agency is using this technology on such a scale. The technology also allows us to take swift proactive administrative action, such as payment suspensions; and as a result CMS is returning $5 to the Trust Fund for every $1 spent on this system; and its impact on our bottom line is expected to continue to grow,” Tavenner said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, disputed Tavenner’s success as CMS administrator. In a statement, he accused the agency under Tavenner’s tenure of padding the number of new enrollees under the President’s health care law.

“Tavenner had to go,” Issa said. “She presided over HHS as it deceptively padded the Obamacare enrollment numbers. It was a deplorable example of an agency trying to scam the American people. They weren’t successful this time because of congressional oversight. We deserve better.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (R-Md.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued his own statement today concerning Tavenner’s departure.

“I thank Administrator Tavenner for her public service and her leadership, which have left an indelible mark on the history of our nation by successfully implementing the Affordable Care Act and providing critical healthcare to millions of Americans,” Cummings said. “I look forward to working with Acting Administrator Slavitt to continue this and other important tasks.”

Tavenner recently testified before the House Oversight Committee in a high profile hearing alongside Jonathan Gruber, an MIT professor who advised the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act.


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