Senate Confirms Tavenner as Head of Medicare-Medicaid Agency

(FOX) Marilyn Tavenner, a nurse who’s been running Medicare and Medicaid on an acting basis, was confirmed 91 to 7 by the U.S. Senate to formally head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which also administers government health benefits to about 100 million Americans.

Medicare and Medicaid have lacked a Senate-confirmed leader since 2006, when Republican appointee Mark McClellan left.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said it’s important to have a confirmed Medicare chief to implement the health law, which will allow currently uninsured Americans to sign up for health insurance starting in October. Coverage won’t be effective until January.

Ms. Tavenner was endorsed by a number of lawmakers, including those staunchly opposed to the health law.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), said Wednesday he thinks the health law is an “unmitigated disaster” in need of repeal but said the agency needs “a strong leader at the helm.” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, (D., Mont.), said Ms. Tavenner “has the confidence of many of us because of her demonstrated abilities.”

Ms. Tavenner sailed through a confirmation hearing and vote at the Senate Finance Committee last month. At that hearing she was introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican.

Her nomination was briefly held up by Sen. Tom Harkin, (D., Iowa). who had protested the Obama administration’s use of a disease-prevention fund to help cover implementation costs of the 2010 health law. Mr. Harkin dropped his opposition last week, clearing the way for Wednesday’s vote.

Ms. Tavenner joined the Obama administration in 2010 after serving as Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources under then-Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Ms. Tavenner spent 25 years in the private sector working for Hospital Corp. of America. She started working as a nurse at a Richmond, Va., hospital in 1981 before becoming the hospital’s chief executive in 1993. In 2001 she became a division president at HCA.