- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mark McClellan, who oversaw the biggest change in Medicare since its inception, said yesterday that he is resigning and likely will work for a think tank.

No replacement was named, although White House spokesman Tony Snow said Dr. McClellan had made it known for some time that he intended to leave.

“He’ll be missed by the president and the entire administration,” Mr. Snow said. “The president has the highest regard for Mark McClellan and appreciates the work he has done for the administration.”

Dr. McClellan, a physician and economist, was one of President Bush’s economic advisers and served as the Food and Drug Administration commissioner before he was tapped in 2004 to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). He also worked in the Clinton administration at the Treasury Department.

His main task in the past year was to get the new Medicare drug program up and running. The program got off to a rocky start, and states had to step in to ensure that the poorest of beneficiaries could continue to get their medicine. Service and care has improved markedly in past months, and analysts said Dr. McClellan was responsible for much of that turnaround.

Dr. McClellan said he will leave the agency in about five weeks and likely would work for a think tank, where he could do more writing about how to make health care better in the United States.

“My kids don’t remember me in a job where I got home regularly for dinner. It’s just time,” said Dr. McClellan, the father of 7-year-old twin girls. “We’ve gotten a lot accomplished, and I’m very confident with the track the agency is on.”

Dr. McClellan is the brother of former White House spokesman Scott McClellan. His mother, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, is the Texas comptroller and is running for governor as an independent.

Opponents of the administration’s health care policies voiced respect for Dr. McClellan. Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, called him diligent and thoughtful.

“I think he did the best he could in the context of an administration and Congress that did not make health care a priority and that offered troublesome legislation that would be difficult to implement,” Mr. Pollack said.

Mr. Pollack was in particular referring to the drug benefit, which his organization has said was not friendly to beneficiaries but was friendly to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Mr. Pollack said he expected that the administration would promote somebody from within CMS to succeed Dr. McClellan because of the difficulty of recruiting during the final two years of a presidency.

In that context, two persons with significant managerial experience at CMS include the deputy administrator, Leslie V. Norwalk, and Herb Kuhn, director of the agency’s Center for Medicare Management.

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