McClellan resigns from CMS post

Sunday, September 10, 2006

WASHINGTON - Few industry sources voiced surprise when Dr. Mark McClellan confirmed last week that he plans to step down from his post as CMS Administrator. It's unlikely that his departure will have much of an impact on the HME industry, sources said.

"His swan song was really the new Medicare prescription drug benefit," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president of communications and policy.

The 43-year-old McClellan, who plans to step down in October, was hand picked by the Bush Administration to develop the benefit, known as Part D. But now that it has been implemented, "there have been rumors that he was ready to go," said one industry source.

"That was a big job--a hard job," the source said.

Although there have been several significant changes to HME during McClellan's tenure, those changes were driven by Congress, industry sources said. It has been CMS's job--its staff and not necessarily McClellan--to implement them.

McClellan's most visible ties to the HME industry have had to do with power mobility devices, industry sources said. It was during McClellan's tenure that CMS formed the Interagency Wheelchair Work Group, or IWWG, pointed out Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility.

"The IWWG resulted in the national coverage determination last spring, which was a positive development for the industry," he said. "I think that partnership and that openness was big."

During a press conference in August 2005, McClellan also addressed the industry's questions about new documentation requirements for power wheelchairs and scooters.

Overall, industry sources applauded McClellan's attempts to make CMS more data and analysis driven. "There have been some efforts to make things more procedural," one source said. "That was an improvement."

After leaving CMS, McClellan will likely work for a research organization and focus on healthcare issues, according to various media reports. Potential prospects for his successor: Leslie Norwalk, CMS's deputy administrator, and Herb Kuhn, director of the agency's Center for Medicare Management.

McClellan was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 2002 to 2004.