A new boss was nominated to shepherd the implementation of health care reform for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The White House on Thursday announced the choice of acting administrator Andy Slavitt to be the official administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He would replace Marilyn Tavenner, who stepped down as head of the agency back in February.
Slavitt is currently the principal deputy administrator for CMS, and he's served as acting head of the agency since March. Previous stints on his résumé include two years as group executive vice president for technology and solutions company Optum, where he served as part of the team brought on to turn around HealthCare.gov during the initial open enrollment period, according to the White House's announcement.
In his few short months as acting head of CMS, he's made it clear that tackling interoperability is a key item on his to-do list.
"It is the price to play," Slavitt told attendees at HIMSS15 in April. "The lack of interoperability is not acceptable to taxpayers, and it is not acceptable to us."
Industry stakeholders, such as the American Hospital Association, applauded Slavitt's appointment Thursday evening.
"He has a deep understanding of the U.S. health care system and a commitment to improving patient care," Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the AHA, said in a statement. "We believe Andy's proven leadership in the public and private sectors speaks to the ongoing contributions he will make at CMS."
Families USA, a nonprofit organization working on behalf of health consumers, said that Slavitt shined as part of the previously mentioned turnaround team for HealthCare.gov.
"Mr. Slavitt has played a remarkably successful role in overseeing the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act and played a heroic role in the successful relaunch of HealthCare.gov," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a statement Thursday. "His actions as principal deputy administrator for CMS have consistently been sensitive and responsive to the needs of health care consumers."
Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, believes Slavitt is well-equipped to help the government agency chart a course for the next half-decade, as it prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid later this month.
"Andy Slavitt's depth of expertise, leadership and innovation has made him a leader in the health care field for years," Tanden said in a statement. "Throughout his career, Andy's keen interest has been helping the health care industry better serve consumers. Seniors, children and low-income Americans, as well as people from all walks of life who rely on CMS, will be greatly served by a leader of such commitment and dedication to the best possible care for them."
Slavitt's nomination still awaits confirmation from the U.S. Senate, and Republican leaders have indicated that such affirmation of President Obama's pick won't come swiftly.
"Mr. Slavitt's conflicted history in the medical services industry has produced mixed results and raised a number of serious concerns," Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. "As such, he will be expected to demonstrate that he is up to the challenge and capable of successfully leading the agency through the monumental tasks that lie ahead."