CMS Administrator Tavenner To Leave Position at End of February

January 16, 2015 in News

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, a key player in the meaningful use program, will step down from her position at the end of next month, the EHR Intelligence reports (Bresnick, EHR Intelligence, 1/16).

Background

Tavenner became acting CMS administrator in 2011 and was confirmed as the agency’s administrator in 2013 (Wayne, Bloomberg, 1/16).

As CMS administrator, Tavenner was charged with implementing the federal electronic health record incentive program. Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

In addition, Tavenner’s agency is overseeing the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 1/16).

Resignation Details

Tavenner made the announcement via an e-mail to her staff on Friday. She did not indicate why she was stepping down.

She wrote, “We came together and faced the challenges and are now providing millions of people with access to an affordable, high quality — and in some cases a lifesaving — health care plan.”

According to the Huffington Post, Tavenner’s departure will set up a potentially difficult confirmation battle with the GOP-controlled Senate.

Andy Slavitt, who has been CMS’ principal deputy administrator since June 2014, will serve as acting CMS administrator until a permanent replacement is confirmed. Slavitt previously was an executive at Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group and a contractor that helped develop the federal exchange.

Reaction

Stakeholders have said Tavenner has maintained good relationships with both Democrats and Republicans, according to the Huffington Post.

America’s Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni said, “She’s not been viewed in town as a particularly political figure. She’s viewed as a manager, which says something about her leadership.”

However, during her tenure Tavenner has received some criticism, including for CMS’ role in miscounting the number of U.S. residents who enrolled in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges during its first open enrollment period.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in a statement set to be released on Friday said, “Marilyn Tavenner has devoted five years and countless hours to the cause of improving health care quality, holding down costs, protecting the Medicare Trust Fund and expanding access to affordable health care coverage to millions of Americans. In so doing, she delivered historic results that have impacted countless lives — both today and for decades to come — all for the better” (Cohn/Young, Huffington Post, 1/16).

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives also commended Tavenner’s leadership, saying, “She provided a steady hand during turbulent times in Washington, as she oversaw the rollout of the ACA and the many provisions of the HITECH Act.” In a statement, CHIME called on the Obama administration and Congress “to confirm a replacement quickly, so that the CMS has the leadership it needs to address the many ongoing challenges with meaningful use, accountable care and continue our march towards the triple aim” (CHIME release, 1/16).

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