Senate Holds Hearing on New CMS Administrator

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing, April 9, to consider the nomination of Marilyn B. Tavenner, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The Administrator of CMS oversees health coverage to roughly one in three Americans. This includes 50 million Medicare patients, 56 million Medicaid patients and more than 5.5 million children through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In addition, the CMS administrator oversees 5,800 employees including the 10 regional offices of the federal agency and the $819 billion budget.

Tavenner, a nurse by training, became hospital administrator and then the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the State of Virginia. After joining CMS in 2010, Tavenner became Acting Administrator the following year.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said one of the Committee's highest priorities  is protecting the integrity of federal health care programs by fighting fraud, waste and abuse. He noted that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes significant new authority and tools for CMS to protect Medicare and Medicaid and save taxpayer dollars.

Since its enactment, the ACA has reduced waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system by assigning categories of risk to providers and moderating those that are high risk. Tavenner's goal for combatting waste fraud and abuse is to preempt fraud on the front end rather than "pay and chase."

Several members of the Committee pointed to Title One of the ACA, specifically the federal and state-based health exchanges (or marketplaces), as one of the greatest challenges that the Administrator of CMS will face. At the request of Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Tavenner committed to provide a bi-weekly progress report on the status of the implementation of Title One of the health reform law.

Tavenner has recused herself from potential conflicts of interest with her former employer, the Hospital Corporation of America, and the State of Virginia, with whom her husband works. The Senate Finance Committee will vote on Tavenner's appointment this week.