Donald Berwick, who served as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until this past December, just joined a liberal think tank funded by billionaire George Soros.
The Center for American Progress announced on Friday that Berwick will serve as the group’s senior fellow. CAP President Neera Tanden called Berwick a “visionary leader of change and progress in our healthcare system.”
CAP is heavily instrumental in helping to craft White House policy. It was founded by John Podesta, who co-directed Obama’s transition into the White House in 2008.
A Time magazine article profiled the influence of Podesta’s Center for American Progress in the formation of the Obama administration, stating that “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
Soros reportedly gave over $5 million directly to the CAP. Another major CAP donor is the Soros-financed Tides Foundation, which is also a prominent donor to MoveOn and is tied to the Occupy movement.
Obama nominated Berwick during a congressional recess in July 2010 after Senate Republicans repeatedly refused to confirm him. Berwick stepped down last December.
WND previously reported how Berwick has argued for a “radical transfer of power” in the health industry and claimed patients’ quality of care in the U.S. medical system is measured by the “color of their skin.”
Berwick’s replacement is Marilyn Tavenner, now serving as the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. WND first revealed Tavenner previously chaired a hospital association that advocates “healthcare for all.”
Another group at which Tavenner served in senior positions, the Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA, admitted while she was there to fraudulently billing Medicare and other government health programs, resulting in the largest fraud settlement in U.S. history.
Tavenner is a 31-year veteran of HCA. She began with the company in 1981 as a nursing supervisor at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, Va. After serving in a number of supervisory positions, she became CEO of the hospital in 1993.
In 1996, Tavenner became president of HCA’s Richmond Division and in 2001 was appointed the company’s Central Atlantic Division president.
In 2004, Tavenner was promoted to group president for HCA’s Outpatient Services.
In settlements reached in 2000 and 2002, HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felonies. The company reportedly admitted to overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable; striking illegal deals with home care agencies; and filing false data about the use of hospital space.
HCA also reportedly admitted to defrauding Medicare by billing the agency and other health programs using exaggerated diagnoses and by filing false cost reports.
HCA agreed in 2002 to pay the U.S. government $631 million, plus interest, and pay $17.5 million to state Medicaid agencies, in addition to $250 million paid up to that point to resolve outstanding Medicare expense claims.
Meanwhile, until 1998, Tavenner served as chairman of the board of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. The group’s mission statement says it seeks “healthcare for all that is high-quality, high-value, compassionate and respectful.”
The group advocates for “healthcare defined to include all services needed to achieve optimum health.”
Tavenner served on numerous state health commissions, including Virginia’s 2006 Commission on Health Reform, whose mission was to “recommend effective ways to reform and strengthen healthcare in Virginia.”
In 2009, she chaired the state’s Health Information Technology Advisory Commission, which provided guidance to the governor on the most effective use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds designated for Health Information Technology.
Tavenner has indicated she will continue Berwick’s initiatives.
Last March, Tavenner told the Nashville Health Care Council that if she became the new Medicare and Medicaid chief, the agency would follow the five-year plan outlined in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Whether I’m nominated or not, we would not have a different approach,” she said, explaining to the council that “the agency’s priorities would not change.”
In April, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reported, “One prominent name being floated in some circles as a potential Berwick replacement is his deputy Marilyn Tavenner. She, however, has said she’d do exactly what Berwick is doing if she were named to the post.”
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott