KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Delay In Appointing Medicare Chief Baffles Lawmakers

To the puzzlement of Congress and health care experts around the country, Mr. Obama has not named anyone to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," The New York Times reports. CMS provides "health insurance to 98 million people, pays 1.2 billion claims a year and has an annual budget of more than $700 billion. It has a pervasive influence on medical care, regulating hospitals, doctors, health plans, laboratories and almost every other type of health care provider. When Medicare decides to cover a new treatment or adopts a new payment policy, private insurers often follow its lead." 

The agency has been without "a regular Senate-confirmed administrator since October 2006, when Dr. Mark B. McClellan stepped down. Its chief operating officer, Charlene M. Frizzera, has been the acting administrator since January ... Since Mr. Obama took office, more than a half-dozen people have been seriously considered for the top job running Medicare and Medicaid," but "Some insiders suggest that the president is waiting for Congress to finish work on health care legislation, so he could pluck an administrator from Capitol Hill - someone like Elizabeth J. Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, or Jack C. Ebeler, a top aide at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce" (Pear, 8/17).

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