With the fight underway to avoid a proposed 5.1% physician payment cut under Medicare slated to take effect in January, it's unclear who will be leading the agency responsible for administering Medicare.
Dr. Mark B. McClellan resigned as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in early September after a 21/2-year tenure with the agency. At press time, no acting or permanent replacement had been named by the White House.
Dr. McClellan, who previously served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and as an economic adviser to President Bush, said that he is considering a move to a Washington-area think tank in the short term. He is also on leave from Stanford (Calif.) University, where he holds teaching posts in medicine and economics.
In a press briefing announcing his resignation, Dr. McClellan said he will stay on at CMS for the next few weeks to aid in the transition, which he expects to be wrapped up by early October.
Dr. McClellan said that after several years in government service, he wanted to spend less time on the road and more time with his family. “This kind of decision is never easy, and there's never a great time for it,” he said.
He took the reins at CMS just months after the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act and has presided over the transition to the Medicare Part D drug benefit.
There has been momentum on all new initiatives at CMS, including the Part D benefit, he said. Dr. McClellan touted the progress of the Part D program, including lower-than-forecast beneficiary costs and an overall high rate of participation and beneficiary satisfaction. And regardless of the outcomes of this year's midterm congressional elections, Dr. McClellan said he expects to see continued congressional oversight of the program. “We should keep looking closely at it,” he said.
The American Medical Association praised Dr. McClellan's expertise and experience as a physician and called for a replacement who would bring similar qualifications to the job. “It is our hope, that before leaving CMS, Dr. McClellan will intensify his efforts to help physicians provide the best possible care to Medicare patients by supporting congressional efforts to ensure that the 2007 Medicare physician payment update will reflect the increase in physicians' practice costs,” Dr. Cecil B. Wilson, AMA board chair, said in a statement.
Dr. McClellan is board certified in internal medicine and earned a PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to his work in the Bush administration, Dr. McClellan served in the Treasury Department under President Clinton. Before working in the federal government, Dr. McClellan was an associate professor of economics and medicine at Stanford University.