She stepped down from CMS in February 2015.
A former hospital executive and Virginia health secretary, Tavenner will replace Karen Ignagni, a highly respected insurance lobbyist with more than two decades of experience at AHIP. Ignagni resigned to become the CEO of insurance company EmblemHealth in May.
The change in AHIP’s leadership is a significant moment in the group’s history as insurers adjust to the health care environment created by Obamacare and seek to protect reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage, a popular alternative to traditional Medicare. The health insurance industry is also tussling with drug companies over the price of specialty medications.
In the event that a future Republican president seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the head of AHIP will also become a crucial player in advocating for insurers’ positions.
Tavenner’s connections will pay off as the group seeks to further expand its influence. She is well-liked on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill — known as a calm and straightforward communicator despite tensions over the rollout of the federal insurance website. Tavenner had been acting administrator of CMS since 2011 and was officially confirmed to her position in May 2013.
AHIP confirmed that Tavenner will not lobby the Obama administration until President Obama leaves office, but she will advocate for the group with lawmakers starting next month.
“There is no better individual than Marilyn to lead our industry through the increasingly complex health care transformation that is underway,” said AHIP Board Chair Mark Ganz in a statement on her unanimous election Wednesday.
“As the unifying voice for our industry, AHIP and its members are uniquely positioned to address the pressing health care challenges facing consumers, and Marilyn is a recognized leader who brings the experience, tenacity, and dedication to achieve our advocacy goals.”
Tavenner will start her new position on Aug. 24.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the former chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Tavenner’s main antagonist in Congress, had this to say about her new job.
“I will leave it to the expertise of the insurance industry whether there was a better pick for the position, but I would recommend not putting her in charge of the website or databases,” he said in a statement.
–This post was updated at 3:49 p.m.