KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Analysts Wondering About Tavenner’s Prospects For Senate Confirmation

News outlets are looking ahead to the confirmation process for Marilyn Tavenner, nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Dr. Donald Berwick as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Associated Press: Medicare Chief Steps Aside In Political Impasse
The point man for carrying out President Barack Obama's health care law will be stepping down [Dec. 2] after Republicans succeeded in blocking his confirmation by the Senate. Medicare chief Don Berwick, a Harvard professor widely respected for his ideas on how to improve the health care system, became the most prominent casualty of the political wars over a health care overhaul law (Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/23).

Boston Globe: Obama’s Chief On Health Care Steps Down Early 
[The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] serves about one out of every three Americans, including seniors, children and the poor. In May of last year, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts went to Berwick’s defense, telling critics to “take a deep breath and look at the facts about this public servant who is beyond debate a dedicated pediatrician and nationally recognized expert on health care quality" (Calvan, 11/24).

The Washington Post: Medicare Administrator Donald Berwick Resigns In The Face Of Republican Opposition
Berwick also weathered an aggressive backlash to his draft rules for Accountable Care Organizations, a pilot program that is meant to move Medicare away from paying doctors for the volume of services they provide and toward reimbursements based on quality of care. Medical groups reacted much more positively to the final regulations for that program (Kliff, 11/23).

Kaiser Health News: Tavenner To Replace Berwick At CMS Helm
Marilyn Tavenner, who has an extensive health background as a nurse, a health care official at both the state and federal level and a hospital chain executive, was tapped by President Barack Obama Wednesday to succeed [Berwick]. ... Tavenner has played a key role in overseeing Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. ... Analysts predicted that Tavenner would not make major changes to the agency’s daily operations (Carey and Galewitz, 11/23).

Politico Pro: CMS Nominee Faces Tough Time In Senate
Her prospects for getting through the Senate confirmation process — which would likely require the support of seven Republicans plus all the Democrats to overcome a cloture vote — are better than outgoing administrator Berwick's, but that might not be saying much. ... While Tavenner doesn't appear to have as much political baggage as Berwick, the CMS administrator is responsible for implementing much of the health reform law. Republicans are unlikely to fully embrace any nominee with ambitious plans to implement the law (Haberkorn, 11/23).

The Hill: Healthcare Dems Optimistic About New Medicare Chief
Patrick Finnerty, who was Virginia’s Medicaid director under Tavenner, said her background helped foster an effective relationship with the state’s Republican legislature. "I think she worked well with legislators from both parties," Finnerty said. "I think they respected her … I think they recognized that this is a person who has a pretty impressive record" (Baker, 11/23).

Related content: Kaiser Health News: Dr. Donald Berwick - A Resource Guide


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