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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the nomination of Marilyn Tavenner to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS, one of the largest agencies ever in the history of the country. For a number of reasons, CMS has been without a confirmed Administrator since the fall of 2006.

CMS is the world's largest health insurer. It processes over a billion Medicare and Medicaid claims a year. It has a budget of nearly $1 trillion. It also provides services to over 100 million of our Nation's most vulnerable citizens receiving Medicare and Medicaid. So clearly this is a critical agency that needs a strong leader at the helm.

Thus far, from what I have seen, Ms. Tavenner has the qualifications to be that kind of a leader I believe her to be. She has clinical experience from being a nurse, executive experience from serving as a hospital administrator, and hands-on operational experience from her time as the secretary of health and human resources for the State of Virginia. That rare combination of skills will be essential when heading an agency as diverse as CMS. There is a reason she was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee on a voice vote and had the House majority leader come testify on her behalf.

Starting in 2010, she was appointed as the Deputy Administrator of CMS. Since November of 2011, she has served as the Acting Administrator. So far, she has shown a willingness to work with Members of both parties, which is a welcome development, particularly under this administration.

At a time when the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is engaging in activities that are less than transparent and potentially illegal, it is even more important that an agency as vital as CMS be headed by someone with strong ethics and integrity.

Make no mistake, this agency's greatest challenges lie ahead. One of the biggest problems facing CMS in the near future is implementation of the Federal- and State-based health insurance exchanges established under ObamaCare. These exchanges are supposed to be brought online later this year, but there are numerous obstacles that will have to be addressed. By most indications, it would take a miracle for the exchanges to be up and ready on time.

To date CMS has not been able to provide satisfactory answers to a number of questions posed by myself and other Members of Congress regarding the exchanges. For example, we have yet to see a breakdown of the budget for the federally facilitated exchange. Furthermore, we still know very little about the operational details of the exchanges and even less about how people will enroll. These are serious issues. With this system, you are asking American families to entrust the fate of their health care services to the empty words and deeds of an administration that has repeatedly shown a complete inability to be held accountable.

More importantly, with the recent revelations of potentially criminal behavior at the Internal Revenue Service, I am very concerned about trusting that agency's ability to work with CMS and HHS to deliver benefits for Americans through the exchanges.

Almost every day we see new indications that the health law is an unmitigated disaster. We are already seeing evidence that health insurance premium costs are continuing to rise and are projected to be, on average, 32 percent higher in the individual market. At the same time, according to numbers released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office, by 2019 almost 14 million Americans who would have had employer-provided coverage will no longer have it.

Let me be very clear. ObamaCare is fundamentally flawed. The only real way to fix it is to repeal it and then start again. But until we can accomplish that goal, we need to make sure we are protecting our fellow citizens the best we can from all the negative effects of this law.

In addition to overseeing this massive new expansion of benefits, Ms. Tavenner will also be charged with helping to ensure the longevity and solvency of the existing Medicare trust fund, which is projected to go bankrupt in 2024. All told, between now and 2030, 76 million baby boomers will become eligible for Medicare. Even factoring in deaths over that period, the program will grow from approximately 47 million beneficiaries today to roughly 80 million beneficiaries in 2030.

Maintaining the solvency of the Medicare Program while continuing to provide care for our ever-increasing beneficiary base is going to require courageous solutions. I have had several conversations with Ms. Tavenner about the need for structural entitlement reforms to ensure that these programs are here for future generations. I sincerely hope we will continue to make progress on these critical issues.

Overseeing a massive bureaucracy such as the one at CMS is not a job for the faint of heart. I will be keeping a close eye on Ms. Tavenner as she takes the reins. If she is to be successful, she will have to realize she cannot do it alone. She will have to work with Members of Congress from both parties. I hope she will do so. I believe she will. Thus far I have reason to believe she will be one of the best leaders we can possibly have in the government. However, if it is under her leadership that CMS continues what has become a disappointing pattern in this administration--not responding to legitimate congressional inquiries and throwing promises of transparency by the wayside--I will use the full weight of my position as the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee to hold her and others fully accountable. I do not think I am going to have to do that. I actually think she is that good.

I appreciate Ms. Tavenner's willingness to serve in this difficult position. While I still have many concerns about the policies of this administration and the direction CMS is heading, I plan to vote in favor of her confirmation because she has the ability and the potential to be a real leader and already has exemplified that in many ways. I encourage my colleagues to vote for her. I think Marilyn Tavenner is the right prescription at the right time to help with HHS and also with CMS which, as I said, is one of the largest agencies ever in the history of the world. She is a good woman. She is dedicated. She has the ability. I believe she will do a great job.

I yield the floor.


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