WASHINGTON (AP) — Marilyn Tavenner won bipartisan Senate approval Wednesday to become the permanent director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Tavenner, who has been the acting CMS director since December 2011, has been playing a key role in overseeing federal efforts to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), overhaul Medicare’s finances, improve long-term care (LTC) services, and improve programs for people with disabilities.
The Senate confirmed Tavenner by an overwhelming 91-7 vote.
CMS is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Together, the programs Tavenner oversees at CMS cover about 100 million Americans, ranging from newborns in low-income families, to people with severe physical and mental disabilities, to patients under hospice care in their last days of life.
CMS has annual budget of about $850 billion — a figure that easily eclipses spending on national defense.
PPACA is supposed to broaden the reach of Tavenner’s agency, by helping many of the millions of people who are now uninsured get health coverage.
Tavenner, 61, started out as a nurse at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Va., working in demanding situations that called for a mix of strong clinical knowledge, steady nerves, and the ability to plan and execute in real time. From ICU nurse, she rose to emergency room supervisor.
Then her career took a turn as she decided to go into administration. She worked her way up to become the hospital’s CEO, and eventually a top executive of its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America. She voluntarily removes herself from all decisions about the big hospital chain.