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Influential Republican Supports Appointee

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Alan Levine, an influential voice in Florida and national health policy, is calling on his fellow Republicans to support the confirmation of Marilyn Tavenner as director of the federal agency that runs Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

Tavenner has been Acting Secretary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)  since late 2011, but her appointment expired with the last Congress.  President Obama has not yet formally nominated her for the permanent post, Politico reports, but is expected to.

It would then be up to the Senate to hold confirmation hearings, but there is no sign of willingness on the part of Senate Republicans to allow a vote on Tavenner. It has been seven years since CMS had a confirmed director.

And that is why Levine says he is speaking out.  Now a hospital-chain executive in Naples, Levine served as Florida's Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration under former Gov. Jeb Bush and then as Health and Hospitals Secretary for Louisiana under Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Currently, he serves on the Board of Governors of the State University System, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott.  Levine also was an advisor to Scott on health matters during the transition after Scott was elected.

In an e-mail to Health News Florida, Levine wrote that the appointment of Tavenner "was one of the best decisions President Obama made, and I hope he will take the step of reappointing her now.  I also respectfully call on Republicans in the United States Senate to support her nomination and to swiftly confirm (her).

"This is one appointment where the credibility and competence of the individual clearly rises above the legitimate policy differences that may exist, and in this case, I hope those policy differences won't get in the way of this excellent public servant being able to serve in her role independently and with the support of the United States Senate.

"She has worked hard, proven herself to be worthy of confirmation, and deserves the opportunity to serve with the support of the Senate."

Levine says he worked with Tavenner when she was the top health administrator for Virginia, before she went to CMS. He called her "well educated on the issues, honest in her dealings, and a competent and capable leader for her state.  She was successful in the private sector, and as a nurse, understands the issues front line health-care givers are faced with.  And most importantly, she has proven herself a competent and credible leader of CMS during a very difficult time for the nation's health care delivery system. "

Tavenner took over when Donald Berwick, who had national stature as founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, could not be confirmed.  Berwick is now said to be considering running for governor of Massachusetts, according to Boston.com.

--Health News Florida, journalism for a healthy state, is a service of WUSF Public Media at www.HealthNewsFlorida.org. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 or (cell) 727-410-3266.