- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don Berwick is resigning his temporary appointment as director of Medicare and Medicaid at the end of next week, making way for the Obama administration to nominate a candidate with a better chance of Senate confirmation.

The White House said Wednesday that President Obama would nominate Marilyn Tavenner, currently deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to head the agency after Mr. Berwick leaves Dec. 2, a month before his term was set to expire.

Don Berwick did outstanding work at CMS,” said White House spokeswoman Jamie Smith. “It’s unfortunate that a small group of senators obstructed his nomination, putting political interests above the best interests of the American people.

Marilyn Tavenner is an experienced leader who will build on this incredible record of accomplishment and make Medicare and Medicaid even stronger, and we hope that the Senate will act quickly to confirm her.”

Ms. Tavenner served as secretary of health and human services in Virginia under then-Gov. Tim Kaine before joining CMS. As the state’s top health official, she oversaw 12 agencies that employed 18,000 people. She also spent 25 years working for the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America, starting as a staff nurse and working her way up to president of outpatient services, according to an alumni profile posted on Virginia Commonwealth University’s website.

The American Hospital Association applauded the nomination, calling Ms. Tavenner a “capable administrator.”

“The AHA commends Don Berwick’s commitment and passion to improving health care,” said association President Rich Umbdenstock in a statement. “At the same time, we look forward to continuing working with Marilyn Tavenner. … Her rich and varied background as a former nurse, health care executive, and government official at the state level gives her a very unique perspective in understanding both the implications of public policy and their implementation.”

The approval remaining uncertain is that of Senate Republicans, whose aversion to Mr. Berwick stifled his confirmation and led Mr. Obama to withdraw his renomination.

Mr. Obama gave Mr. Berwick a recess appointment in July 2010, allowing the Harvard professor to serve temporarily without Senate approval. Widely opposed by Republicans who accused him of trying to ration health care, he had raised their ire by supporting Britain’s health care system as a model for the U.S.

Last spring, 42 GOP senators sent a letter to the president seeking the withdrawal of Mr. Berwick’s renomination. Now, with his resignation, Republicans are turning their attention to Ms. Tavenner.

“I’m glad the White House opted against another end run around the Senate and instead has put forward a CMS nominee that the Senate must thoroughly examine,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, ranking Republican on the Finance Committee. “Republicans on the Finance Committee look forward to examining her record and gaining an understanding of her views of Medicare, Medicaid and the president’s health law.”