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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner Announces Resignation

January 22, 2015 | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments
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Last Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced that she will be leaving her post in February. A former hospital executive and Virginia health secretary, Tavenner was appointed interim head of CMS in 2011. Two years later, on a vote of 91-7, she became the first CMS Administrator to win Senate confirmation since 2006.

Tavenner did not give a reason for her departure, but in an email to CMS staff listed a series of agency accomplishments under her tenure, including slowing the growth of health-care costs, now at a historically low rate. She also praised the current operation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) online insurance exchanges.

Though one of the most senior officials involved in the bumpy rollout of the HealthCare.gov website in 2013, Tavenner never drew as much fire as her boss at the time, former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned last year. However, Tavenner has received some criticism, including for CMS’s role in miscounting the number of U.S. residents who enrolled in health coverage through the health law’s exchanges during its first open enrollment period. The second health law enrollment period will close Feb. 15, and HeathCare.Gov is operating without the glitches that hindered the site last time. About 7.1 million people in states covered by the federal site have so far signed up for, or renewed, 2015 coverage 2015, HHS announced last Wednesday.

Tavenner will be succeeded by Andy Slavitt, who is currently the second-highest ranking official at the agency. As a top executive at UnitedHealth Group, Slavitt had worked closely with the agency on HealthCare.gov’s technical issues and was brought in-house in 2014. Slavitt will ultimately need Senate confirmation if he is to become the agency’s permanent Administrator. With many Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate pressing for major changes to the 2010 health law, the confirmation process could again be difficult.