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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


"Get Worse," Says Senate Author

by Art Kelly | 4/16/2013

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing for Marilyn Tavenner, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who President Obama has nominated to the job, a senator who was instrumental in the drafting of Obamacare was critical of the Administration’s efforts to enforce it.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a key architect of the law, warned Tavenner that it is complicated “and if it isn’t done right the first time, it will just simply get worse.”

"I believe that the Affordable Care Act is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress…Up to this point, it is just beyond comprehension," Rockefeller said.

Tavenner (pictured, above), 61, a former nurse, was Secretary of Health and Human Services in Virginia when Senator Tim Kaine was governor. She worked well with Republicans in the Legislature. Prior to that, Tavenner was employed by the Hospital Corporation of America, founded by the father of former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN).

Tavenner has the strong support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who said, “Obamacare remains very controversial. But if there is anyone that I trust to try to navigate the challenges, it is Marilyn Tavenner.”

If Tavenner wins full Senate approval as CMS administrator, as expected, she will be the first person to be confirmed to this position since Mark McClellan in the Bush Administration, who served from 2004 to 2006.

CMS administers Medicare and Medicaid, but much of Obamacare is administered by other elements of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

One big problem HHS has encountered is setting up the health insurance exchanges. The Department didn’t anticipate that only 17 states would opt to establish exchanges, leaving the federal government with the responsibility in the other 33 states.

As a result, the administration of this program will cost $4.4 billion, rather than the originally estimated $2 billion.

HHS had asked Congress for an additional $949 million to administer Obamacare, but this was denied. Instead, the existing funding for the program was slightly reduced by the sequester that affected most federal programs.

HHS has been able to transfer some money from other programs to the exchanges, but future congressional funding for Obamacare looks bleak.

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