Obama nominates new Medicare chief, sparking ObamaCare fight

Greg Nash

President Obama on Thursday nominated a new head of the federal Medicare agency, which also helps oversee ObamaCare, making it likely that there will be partisan fireworks at confirmation hearings.

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Obama nominated Andy Slavitt to be head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Slavitt is already serving as the acting administrator. He moved to that role from the deputy position in March.

Before joining the administration in July 2014, Slavitt was an executive at Optum, a healthcare technology company. In that role, he helped work on HealthCare.gov when it was plagued by problems in the fall of 2013. 

The White House on Thursday touted him as “a key member of the team brought on to turn around HealthCare.gov during the first open enrollment period.”

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellHillary's ObamaCare problem In House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ MORE (R-Ky.) quickly released a statement indicating the nomination will bring up fights over ObamaCare. 

“The head of the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid should be focused on what the American people expect him to do: administer these important programs, not allow his attention to be diverted instead to the implementation of some gigantic, unworkable health care law that hurts hardworking Americans,” McConnell said in a statement. 

“While Andy Slavitt’s nomination will receive thorough consideration in the Senate, it has long been clear that no one can successfully manage a law as unworkable as Obamacare. The sole focus of CMS should be to look out for our nation’s seniors and the many vulnerable Americans who use these programs, without the distraction of Obamacare.”

Slavitt has also drawn concern in the past from Republican senators worried about conflicts of interest around Slavitt making decisions that affect the ObamaCare contractor where he used to work. But the administration has pointed to an ethics agreement he signed to recuse himself from certain matters directly involving his former employer. 

In April, CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said Slavitt was "integral to both the relaunch of HealthCare.gov and this year’s successful second open enrollment" period for ObamaCare.