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Is Medicare Nominee the “Anti-Berwick”?

Unlike the last controversial Medicare and Medicaid head Donald Berwick, Obama’s new pick to run the programs isn’t getting a lot of opposition from congressional Republicans. In the clearest sign that nominee Marilyn Tavenner will likely have a smooth confirmation process in the Senate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor actually praised her yesterday:

“I would hope to be able to support her,” Cantor said. “Obviously, I’m not in the Senate, so I don’t have that vote, but I do think she is qualified. Obviously, she’ll be working for a president with an agenda that’s quite different from mine.”

Many stakeholders already thought Tavenner might be able to win Senate confirmation, based largely on the fact that Senate Republicans did not immediately attack her. Support from Cantor, one of Congress’ leading conservative voices, will likely bolster her prospects.

While Cantor doesn’t have a vote, he is the most high-profile conservative voice to support Tavenner so far. The reason may be that Tavenner has a reputation as the “anti-Berwick” – former colleagues describe her as a pragmatic consensus-builder, who works across partisan lines. HealthLeaders Media reports:

“She is not going to be a bomb thrower. She is not going to be tossing political hand grenades,” says Virginia State Sen. Edd (CQ) Houck, D-Fredericksburg.

Although she served under a Democratic governor, Houck says Tavenner worked well with Republicans in the Virginia Senate. “Marilyn was agile and sensitive to the partisan differences. She was politically astute,” he says.

It sounds like Republicans won this battle, and Tavenner will get an easy confirmation in Congress. Obama stood by Berwick for a long time, despite the Medicare chief’s supportive comments about health care rationing, but in the end the president had to go with a choice that was low-key and nonpolitical.



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