Marilyn Tavenner, the administration’s former top Obamacare official, was tapped Wednesday to lead the country’s largest health insurance lobby group.
“There is no better individual than Marilyn to lead our industry through the increasingly complex healthcare transformation that is underway,” AHIP board chair Mark Ganz said in a statement. “She has the respect and trust of policymakers and stakeholders from all sides, and a personal commitment to advance meaningful solutions for improving access to quality, affordable care for all Americans.”
The former administration official will not lobby the White House until President Barack Obama leaves office, AHIP told The Washington Post, but will lobby Congress on behalf of the group beginning next month, as she takes her position Aug. 24.
Tavenner’s tenure at CMS was marked by HealthCare.gov’s spectacular meltdown. Tavenner served as acting CMS administrator between 2011 and May 2013, when she was formally confirmed in her position. She continued to lead the agency throughout the entirety of Obamacare’s flawed rollout in 2013 and 2014.
Much of her time was dedicated to answering questions — or not — from Congress about how Obamacare’s launch was allowed to go so wrong. Former House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa, Tavenner’s frequent sparring partner in hearings over the botched rollout, gave The Washington Post a statement on her new job.
“I will leave it to the expertise of the insurance industry whether there was a better pick for the position, but I would recommend not putting her in charge of the website or databases,” Issa said. (RELATED: Issa Slams Obamacare Chief Over HealthCare.gov Revealing Personal Information)
Internal emails obtained by Fox News last year show that employees under Tavenner’s management resented the administration’s insistence on launching HealthCare.gov without any delay, whether or not the website was ready, and showed a harsh climate at CMS under her leadership. One employee remarked on “temper tantrums and threats” from Tavenner amid the rush to get the Obamacare website ready for primetime.
“Just so you know [Tavenner] decided in January we were going no matter what,” Tavenner’s immediate subordinate Michelle Snyder wrote of HealthCare.gov’s launch in September 2013. “Hence the really cruel and uncaring march that has occurred since January when she threatened me with a demotion or forced retirement if I didn’t take this on.”
Tavenner’s move isn’t the first to raise questions about the coziness of the Obama administration and the health insurance industry. Obama’s nominee as Tavenner’s replacement at the helm of CMS, Andy Slavitt, is a former top executive at United Health Group, the country’s largest health insurer. Slavitt’s nomination has already raised concerns from both sides of the aisle on ethics grounds, as he will have the power to form rules that will govern his former employer. (RELATED: Obamacare Chief Nominee Pounded On Conflicts Of Interest)
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