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With Tavenner out, what lies in store for CMS in 2015?

What the new administrator will need to focus on, as well as reaction from around the industry

On Friday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, a key player during Affordable Care Act implementation, announced her resignation. Andrew Slavitt, the second-ranking official at CMS, will take over her position.

2015 is already set to be a busy year for healthcare reform. Listed below is a main area Slavitt will need to focus on, according to the National Journal, as well as industry reaction, according to Employee Benefit Adviser.

Subsidies ruling

It's most likely that the Supreme Court's decision in the King v. Burwell case will define the path for healthcare politics in 2015 and beyond.

As of right now, 37 states rely on the federal exchange since they chose to not set up their own. Because these exchanges fall under CMS control, the administration will be the one to handle the fallout should the court rule against subsidized coverage.

It's possible that, come June, millions of Americans will be without federal subsidies. CMS--and Slavitt in particular--will need to figure out how to discourage insurers from pulling out of big states.

Another obstacle: Should states choose to leave the federal marketplace and set up their own exchanges, CMS will need to figure out how to make this transition as quickly and as cheaply as possible, added the National Journal. Most states are taking a wait-and-see approach, the Wall Street Journal reported, as they are either reluctant to quickly set up a state health insurance exchange or see a ruling against subsidized coverage as the beginning of the end for the Affordable Care Act.

Industry reaction

The timing of Tavenner's announcement may be telling, Michael Lujan, the former head of sales and marketing at California's state-run public exchange and current president and co-founder of Redwood City, California-based Limelight Health, told EBA.

Open enrollment ends in less than a month, but data likely won't be available until Tavenner has left. Those figures, combined with the cost of Medicaid expansion, will have "[officials] running for every rock they can crawl under," Sam Smith, M.D., of California-based Genesis Insurance, also told EBA. The Republican-led Congress will want answers. "Who wants to go through that?" Smith asked.

Those around the industry also noted Tavenner's successes and hard work she put into the healthcare reform law. "Marilyn will be missed. She's been a steady hand during a tricky time. I don't like to speculate but I'll say Andy has a tough act to follow," Shaun Greene, chief operating officer of Arches Health Plan and FierceHealthPayer advisory board member, told FierceHealthPayer.

For more:
- here's the National Journal article
- check out the EBA piece
- read the Wall Street Journal article

Related Articles:
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner resigns, effective end of February
Six states urge Supreme Court to shoot down ACA subsidies
King v. Burwell will define healthcare politics in 2015