- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2015

Marilyn Tavenner, a key administration official who oversaw the wobbly rollout of Obamacare, announced Friday she will step down at the end of February.

Mrs. Tavenner enjoyed bipartisan support when President Obama tapped her to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency in charge of massive amounts of health spending and President Obama’s overhaul.

But the Affordable Care Act’s disastrous rollout led to tension between her agency and congressional Republicans intent on dismantling the law. And last year, she had to walk back Obamacare enrollment figures she provided to the House oversight committee, after its staff realized the agency padded its tally with 400,000 dental plans. The agency said it was a mistake.

Mrs. Tavenner joins former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as the second key Obamacare official to resign since the law kicked off in earnest in fall 2013.

Andy Slavitt, CMS’s principal deputy administrator and a former Obamacare contractor who helped to revive HealthCare.gov as an executive with Optum, will serve as acting administrator.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell credited the departing administrator with helping millions of Americans get insurance over the last year.

Mrs. Tavenner joined the department during the “snowmageddon” of February 2010, the secretary said, and “has insisted on pushing forward, no matter how severe the storms we faced.”

Mrs. Tavenner alluded to the high-profile reforms in her departure letter to colleagues.

“With those changes came a whole new set of responsibilities and a spotlight that brightly shown on all of us as we managed the largest federal agency budget, strong opinions across the nation, and our ultimate mission of improving our country’s healthcare system and saving lives,” she wrote. “But with your hard work, dedication, commitment and resolve, you cleared the path and laid out a plan for all that we needed to accomplish.”

In May 2013, Mrs. Tavenner became the first CMS administration to be confirmed by the Senate in six years. She was buoyed by unusually strong GOP support for an Obama appointee, with then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walking across the Capitol to testify in support of her nomination.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, lauded her performance Friday while acknowledging the rocky seas of Obamacare.

Marilyn has done a great job in a very difficult position under near impossible circumstances,” he said. “She has proven herself to be a strong leader and a straight-shooter who brought in much needed private sector sensibility into the agency. I truly appreciate her service and wish her the very best in her next adventure.”

Former Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, withheld praise.

Tavenner had to go,” Mr. Issa said. “She presided over HHS as it deceptively padded the Obamacare enrollment numbers. It was a deplorable example of an agency trying to scam the American people. They weren’t successful this time because of congressional oversight. We deserve better.”

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