May 15,2013

Press Contact:

Sean Neary/Meaghan Smith
(202) 224-4515

Baucus Statement in Support of Marilyn Tavenner’s Nomination to Lead Medicare and Medicaid

As prepared for delivery

Mr. President:  Marilyn Tavenner has been nominated to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS. 

As head of CMS, Ms. Tavenner would be in charge of administering Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, among other programs.

Roughly one in three Americans relies on health coverage under the jurisdiction of CMS.  This includes 50 million Medicare patients, 56 million Medicaid patients and more than 5.5 million children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  In my home state of Montana, 167,000 seniors and 8,300 military retirees rely on Medicare alone. 

Marilyn Tavenner is an experienced healthcare professional.  She has proven herself to be a strong leader.  I believe she is the right woman to lead CMS, a view shared by my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Ms. Tavenner is a proud, native Virginian, and her Congressional delegation warmly introduced her at her confirmation hearing before the Finance Committee last month.  Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor all spoke. 

House Majority Leader Cantor said at our hearing, “I don’t think there is any secret that I differ with the Obama administration in a lot of matters in health care policy … but if there is anyone that I trust to try to navigate [these] challenges, it is Marilyn Tavenner.”

Two weeks later, the Finance Committee approved Ms. Tavenner’s nomination with a unanimous vote. 

Marilyn Tavenner has earned this broad support from both sides of the aisle and the confidence of many of us because of her demonstrated abilities.  She has spent her entire career providing care to people in need.

She started as a nurse and quickly rose up through the ranks to become a hospital administrator.  She served four years as Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources before joining CMS in 2010.  She has served as the Acting Administrator for the past year and a half. 

I am confident we will get a strong vote on this nomination because Marilyn Tavenner has a reputation for being a pragmatist and a person who doesn’t give up.

I’d like to share a story from early in her career as a nurse in the 1980s. 

Marilyn was working the night shift in the Intensive Care Unit at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.  At 2:00 a.m., a rescue squad brought in a young woman to the emergency room.  She had been in a terrible car accident and crashed through the windshield of her old Volkswagen Bug.  Badly injured and having suffered massive blood loss, she was pronounced dead.  But Ms. Tavenner and the doctors went to work anyway, trying to revive her.

The surgeon on call told reporters that, quote — “We came up with a game plan, and it was right on target.  We used about 60 units of blood.  Marilyn was very supportive in everything … the patient ultimately walked out of the hospital.”

Marilyn Tavenner doesn’t give up.  We need that type of leader at CMS.  Her experience in health care is real and varied, and it will serve her well in this position.

On a final note, as some have pointed out, CMS has operated without a confirmed administrator for several years.  So I am glad we are moving forward with this nomination today. 

We need a confirmed administrator at CMS to properly implement the important programs we created in the Affordable Care Act.

This was an essential bill that created good law.  In just a few months, the health care marketplaces will be open for enrollment, and tax credits and subsidies will be available to help families and small businesses pay for health care.

This is a critical time to have someone with Ms. Tavenner’s experience confirmed and in charge at CMS. 

As administrator, she will have to make sure these programs are ready to go on day one.  She will need to ensure the health care law’s programs work for the people they are intended to serve.  I believe she can, and I believe she will. 

She has done a great job as the acting administrator, and it is time we confirm her.  I urge all of my colleagues to join me in support of her nomination.