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New CMS Spokesperson Will Be in Place Before Next Health Law Sign-Up

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will have a new public face when the next open enrollment period to sign up for insurance under the health law begins on Nov. 15. CMS Director of the Office of Communications Julie Bataille will leave the administration this summer, joining a long list of departing health officials.

Following the glitch-filled launch of the federal website in October, Bataille engaged in almost-daily updates with reporters, some of which turned into jousting matches when the journalists felt she was dodging their questions.

"It is with mixed emotions that I let you know that Julie Bataille, has decided to leave CMS this summer to pursue new opportunities," wrote CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in an email to staff on Monday afternoon. "Under Julie's leadership, CMS ran the largest public education campaign in the agency's history – to help millions of Americans access new healthcare through and the Health Insurance Marketplace."

Tavenner noted that Bataille also oversaw communications for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, including Medicare's annual open enrollment campaign.

"This time has been one of extraordinary change and growth for our agency and her work has gone a long way to enhance the agency's ongoing efforts and further its mission in an age of rapidly changing communications, customer service and technology," wrote Tavenner.

Before coming to CMS, Bataille was the Associate Vice President of Communications for Georgetown University. Earlier in her career, she worked as the Deputy Director of Communications for Vice President Al Gore and the Gore 2000 Presidential Campaign. She also worked as the main press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton administration and as a Clinton-era White House assistant press secretary.

A number of Obama administration communications officials as well as policy experts have left the administration. CMS media relations officials who recently left include Emma Sandoe, who will pursue a graduate degree at Harvard, and Richard Olague, who returned to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Health and Human Services (HHS) spokeswoman Joanne Peters left to work for the re-election campaign of Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. CMS spokeswoman Tasha Bradley, a veteran who is well-versed in the details of the new marketplace, is temporarily replacing Peters on a three-month detail.

A new deputy press officer will be joining CMS soon and the agency will work to fill the other openings shortly, said a federal official.

Former Obama administration health care officials who have left or will soon leave include HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, principal CMS deputy administrator Jonathan Blum, CMS Center for Insurance Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) Director Gary Cohen, CMS CCIIO Deputy Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, White House aide Chris Jennings, tech guru Kurt DelBene, and HHS Office of Health Reform Director Michael Hash.

After the launch, CMS Chief Operating Officer Michelle Snyder retired and was replaced by Tim Love. The chief information officer, Tony Trenkle, left abruptly and was replaced by Dave Nelson.

Last week, new HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that Andy Slavitt will serve as the new CMS principal deputy administrator and that the agency will hire a marketplace CEO and chief technology officer that will be in place before the next sign-up period begins on Nov. 15. Slavitt had worked with the administration to fix as group executive vice president for the federal contractor Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group Inc.

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