With AJMC, Tavenner Offered No Hint of Website Woes

CMS Administrator Touted on Eve of Troubled Rollout

PLAINSBORO, N.J. — Precisely one week before the October 1, 2013, opening of state and federal exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confidently described the steps in place to enroll members of the public, offering no hint of the problems she would apologize to Congress for a month later.

Marilyn Tavenner, speaking to The American Journal of Managed Care on September 24, 2013, brought up the troubled Website,, on her own in response to a question about what steps CMS was taking to ensure successful implementation of the exchanges.

“CMS is ensuring successful implementation of the exchanges through several methods,” Tavenner said in a taped interview, which can be seen on “One method is obviously the Website, which is,” she said. Tavenner also mentions 24/7 call centers and “various forms of in-person assistance,” including the navigator program.

In a wide-ranging interview, Tavenner discusses topics related to the ACA rollout, including the role of the navigators, efforts by CMS to work with states that have not expanded Medicaid, and lesser-known initiatives such as pilot programs to promote payment based on accountable care rather than fee-for-service.

Tavenner’s interview occurred during a conference, America's Health Insurance Plans Medicare, Medicaid and Dual Eligibles 2013 Programs, which took place in Washington, D.C., from September 22-26, 2013. The interview was produced by AJMC Associate Editorial Director Nicole Beagin.

In response to a question about some accountable care organizations (ACOs) that dropped out of the CMS “Pioneer” program, Tavenner responded that some plans still sought to take part in “shared savings” programs, but that CMS had learned the importance of “timely data.” The New York Times reported this week that concerns about sharing data are at the heart of the Obama administration’s resistance to letting insurers bypass the faulty Website and enroll consumers directly.

Since the AJMC interview, Tavenner has twice appeared before Congress regarding During a Nov. 5 appearance before the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee, the navigator program drew questions, including from Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, who said, “People really don’t know” how to access the plans.

That came after Tavenner’s highly public Oct. 29 apology before the House Ways and Means Committee, where she said, “To the millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use to shop and enroll in health-care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the Website has not worked as well as it should. We know how desperately you need affordable coverage.”

CONTACT: Nicole Beagin or Mary Caffrey

(609) 716-7777 x 131 or

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