Bush Names FDA Chief to Run Medicare/Medicaid Agency

The Bush administration has nominated the current head of the Food and Drug Administration to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Mark McClellan, a physician and economist, was formerly a top White House health adviser in the Bush White House and is a proponent of relying on the private sector to improve health-care quality and efficiency. As head of CMS, Dr. McClellan would be in charge of implementing the new Medicare law, which leans heavily on private-sector solutions.

Although Senate confirmation is expected, Dr. McClellan will likely be asked to explain his strong opposition to legalizing importation of prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere. This position has been popular with the drug industry but less so with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who see the practice as a way to lower drug prices.

Nevertheless, the the Wall Street Journal wrote Feb. 12: "Dr. McClellan, 40 years old, could be the rare Republican who could help defuse tension in the current charged atmosphere and improve public opinion of the changes in store for the federal health program."

Dr. McClellan's brother, Scott, is the top White House spokesman. Dr. McClellan would replace former CMS Administrator Thomas A. Scully, who stepped down in December to take a position with the law firm Alston & Bird, one of five investment or law firms that had been bidding for his services as an adviser on the Medicare legislation that Mr. Scully helped craft and shepherd through Congress.