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Weems Nominated to Head CMS

By Mary Agnes Carey, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

May 3, 2007 – President Bush Thursday nominated Kerry N. Weems to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

Weems has held several posts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during his 24-year tenure, currently serving as the agency's deputy chief of staff. He also has served as the agency's acting assistant secretary for budget, technology, and finance and as chief financial officer. If confirmed, Weems will replace Mark McClellan, who left the agency in October 2006.

Bush also nominated Tevi David Troy to serve as deputy HHS secretary. Troy currently serves as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy and also has served as special assistant to the president and deputy cabinet secretary.

Acting CMS Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk said Thursday she asked not to be considered as a permanent replacement to McClellan. "It was not easy, but I decided early in the search process that I could not commit to staying for another two years," Norwalk said in a statement sent to CMS staff. "I am ready for the next phase in my life and am hopeful it will be as rewarding as the last six years have been."

Norwalk said she would stay on through the transition period and praised the agency's work on the Medicare drug benefit and giving states more flexibility on Medicaid.

In a statement, HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said that Weems' "wealth of experience" as an advisor to several HHS secretaries and as a manager of large budgets and organizations would help Weems at the helm of CMS. "He understands the large fiscal challenges facing Medicare and Medicaid and what it will take to strengthen and sustain those programs for the future," Leavitt said.

Leavitt said Troy "is a consensus builder on tough public policy issues" who has demonstrated "innovative" thinking on several issues, including health information technology, public health, childhood obesity, and food and drug safety.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Thursday he was pleased the White House has nominated a new leader for CMS.

"Medicare and Medicaid are essential programs for more than 80 million Americans. Having a permanent Administrator will be a big help as we continue to improve these programs and provide the highest quality of care possible. I plan to act quickly and work with my colleagues on the Finance Committee to carefully review this nomination," Baucus said in a statement.

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