Tavenner Takes a Powder - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Tavenner Takes a Powder
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Marilyn Tavenner, the Obama administration official who presided over Obamacare’s worst debacles and most devious deceptions, has finally made an intelligent decision—she resigned. Tavenner ran the government bureaucracy responsible for the inept rollout of HealthCare.gov, the promulgation of phony PPACA enrollment figures, and the handout of legally dubious waivers to Democrat-friendly donors. And, when Congress subpoenaed her emails—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—she discovered that they had somehow been deleted. Having thus committed as many blunders as can be reasonably expected of any incompetent apparatchik, she announced last Friday that she will depart next month.

The “news” media have represented Tavenner as a casualty of Obamacare’s disastrous launch, as if the mind-boggling mismanagement of its implementation can be attributed to some natural disaster. Her boss, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, actually praised her handling of the botched rollout: “It’s a measure of her tenacity and dedication that after the tough initial rollout of HealthCare.gov, she helped right the ship.” In reality, Tavenner and her underlings at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are responsible for running it aground. And, as Reuters reports, “a team of outside experts got the website working.” Not coincidentally, the leader of that team will replace her as acting CMS administrator.

If the inept rollout of HealthCare.gov were the only blot on Tavenner’s escutcheon, it might be possible to have some sympathy for her. But her record of malfeasance is by no means limited to that exercise in bureaucratic incompetence. We are told by Jonathan Cohn (remember him?) that Tavenner’s legacy includes a commitment to “transparency.” The former New Republic writer evidently has a short memory. Not only was Tavenner one of at least twenty Obama administration officials who “inadvertently” deleted emails sought by congressional investigators, she was actually dumb enough to instruct a subordinate in writing to delete emails to the White House relating to the HealthCare.gov disaster.

The most ironic feature of this tawdry tale is that, as CMS administrator, Tavenner oversees enforcement of the “Sunshine Act.” This is a provision of Obamacare ostensibly meant to ensure that physicians conduct business transactions with complete transparency. It requires manufacturers of medical products to report anything worth more than $10.00 that they have given a physician. If a software vendor takes your doctor out to lunch and buys him a steak, it must be reported to CMS. Failure to do so can result in penalties of up to $1 million. In other words, while Marilyn Tavenner instructed her staff to destroy their emails, she was in charge of keeping your physician and his business associates honest.

Not that such hypocrisy began when Tavenner replaced Donald Berwick as CMS administrator. While the Obama administration was trying to get the hapless Dr. Berwick confirmed by the Senate, she was his Deputy Principal Administrator. According to a Politico piece from early 2011, “HHS announced earlier this month it would move CCIIO under the administration of Marilyn Tavenner.” CCIIO is an acronym for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the obscure bureaucracy that doled out the infamous Obamacare waivers to members of the Democrat donor base. In other words, the waiver scam was perpetrated by an agency under Tavenner’s direct supervision.

The unfortunate reality is that Tavenner’s entire career has been accompanied by a miasma of corruption. Alleged journalists like Sara Kliff at Vox gush about Tavenner’s beginnings as a nurse: “My favorite story about Tavenner… is one from her nursing days when she helped bring a patient back from the dead. Seriously.” Oddly enough, Kliff and most of the “news” media neglect to mention that she was also a high level executive at a for-profit hospital system when it was busy defrauding Medicare, and received a $1.5 billion fine for its trouble. Tavenner wasn’t directly implicated in that particular Medicare scam, but it seems passing strange that corruption seems to follow her, like Mary’s little lamb, wherever she goes.

The exercise in skullduggery that finally resulted in Tavenner’s resignation from CMS, however, occurred just last year. When the White House and its media mouthpieces began claiming that the number of suckers who bought “coverage” via PPACA exchanges would be the ultimate measurement of Obamacare’s success, large sign-up figures became a major priority. The CMS administrator was tasked with producing a total that didn’t leave the President or HHS Secretary Burwell with egg on their faces. And with the grim inevitability of Greek tragedy, as the immortal P.G. Wodehouse would have phrased it, the Obama administration duly claimed that eight million people had signed up through the exchanges.

No one with any sense believed them, of course. As Guy Benson put it, “[T]he official numbers didn’t account for duplicates, non-paying ‘customers,’ and consumer attrition—not to mention the high percentage of ‘new’ enrollees who previously had insurance, but were forced to use Obamacare’s exchanges to obtain plans after their existing arrangements were cancelled under the new law.” Eventually the Obama administration revised the official figure down to 7.1 million. But the news got worse. As CNN reported, “Only 6.7 million Americans were enrolled in Obamacare health insurance plans … The higher figure the White House reported earlier included people who enrolled in stand-alone dental plans.”

At this point, the President and Secretary Burwell looked in the mirror and saw a viscous yellow substance dripping from their chins. It was about that time that Marilyn Tavenner started thinking about spending more time with her family. She had violated the ostensible mission statement of the Obama administration: “Don’t do stupid stuff.” In plain English, that means don’t get caught. Nurse Tavenner was imprudent enough to get caught and, therefore, had to resign. Good riddance to bumbling bureaucrats.

David Catron
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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