Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who Is CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and What Does Her Nomination Mean?

Say hello to the CMS Administrator
Bowing to the implacably oppositional Republicans, President Obama's first selection for Administrator of CMS tendered his resignation and made way for second-in-command Marilyn Tavenner.  What's more, instead of using a recess appointment, the White House has submitted her nomination to the U.S. Senate.

So who, asks the Disease Management Care Blog, is she?

According to this biosketch (scroll down, you'll find her), Ms. Tavenner has a 25 year hospital administrator pedigree that includes being CEO at two Virginia Hospital Corporation of America hospitals (Chippenham and Johston Willis).  That part of her career culminated in her being the company's "President of Outpatient Services."  As the DMCB understands it, she entered the major leagues of public service in 2006 when Democratic Governor Tim Kaine tapped her as Virginia's Secretary of Health and Human Resources.  Thanks in part to her links with Mr. Kaine, she later jumped to CMS, where she became the "Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer."  Unsurprisingly, her duties have included loyally defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  You can see her in action here on C-SPAN.

By the way, did the DMCB mention that Ms. Tavenner is a registered nurse?

She has an Virginia Commonwealth University BSN undergraduate degree and apparently climbed the HCA ranks one patient care unit at a time.  Somewhere along the line she also nabbed a Masters in Health Administration.

Four initial thoughts from the DMCB:

1. The new CMS nominee is another example of the emergence of nurses as go-to health leaders.  Not only does the public trust them, they're able to bring a real-world understanding of hands-on patient care to the high falutin' mix of operations, policy, politics and finance.  The good ones know how to deal with grumpy doctors and neutralize clueless administrators.  That being said, the physician DMCB can't help it and still wishes there was a doc at CMS' helm

2. In its long career, DMCB has witnessed the Dark Side Transformation of many well-meaning physician or nurse administrators to a type that places profits over patients. What's more, few have become hospital CEOs without making some enemies along the way.  Will any past foes come forward with unpleasant anecdotes from an otherwise forgotten past?  Stay tuned.

3. Despite lots of searching, the DMCB couldn't find much of a track record outside some speaking gigs and serving on some boards.  As far as it can tell, she has no peer-reviewed publications and her public statements have been pretty vanilla.  While that may impair Mr. Obama's foes' ability to attack Ms. Tavenner's record, the DMCB wants to know more about someone who is going to be leading the world's largest health insurer.

4.  The absence of a track record doesn't mean that the nomination process isn't an opportunity for politically motivated mischief.  It remains to be seen how well Ms. Tavenner testimony holds up to the Republicans' intense "gotcha" scrutiny and whether her nomination ultimately becomes a toxic partisan (re)hearing on the merits of the ACA.

1 comment:

Bill Vickery said...

I think she did her best to be honest in her testimony. She did not get rattled. Seems to have her act together. Good news that she is a former nurse.