CMS names acting administrator

Sunday, October 1, 2006

WASHINGTON - CMS has tapped Leslie Norwalk, its current deputy administrator, as its acting administrator. Norwalk, who assumes the post Oct. 15, succeeds Mark McClellan, who announced his resignation in early September.

Depending on when President Bush names a permanent replacement, Norwalk could lead CMS for months or even years. One of her first tasks: Overseeing the next enrollment period for the prescription drug benefit, which begins Nov. 15.

"She is a nationally recognized expert on Medicare issues and played a central role in the successful implementation of the prescription drug benefit and other reforms to Medicare and Medicaid," Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told The Associated Press.

Leavitt also singled out the 40-year-old Norwalk for her role in redesigning Louisiana's healthcare system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Norwalk has been a part of CMS's senior management team for five years. Prior to joining CMS, she practiced law for the Washington, D.C., law firm Epstein, Becker and Green, advising clients on a variety of health policy matters. Cara Bachenheimer, who also worked for the firm before she joined Invacare as vice president of government relations, called Norwalk "smart-a substance person."

Additionally, Norwalk served in the first Bush administration within the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.