Senate Confirms McClellan to Run Medicare/Medicaid Agency

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Mark McClellan, currently commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to be the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) had threatened to stall McClellan's nomination until he explained his staunch opposition to the importantion of prescription drugs from Canada. The two senators backed down after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) agreed to begin a process that could lead to legislation that would allow the reimportation of lower-cost, U.S.-manufactured prescription drugs from other nations. "We're trying to move the ball forward here, to make progress" toward reimportation, Dorgan said. In addition, McClellan agreed testify on the reimportation issue before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

During the committee's hearing on the issue, supporters of reimportation gained a significant convert when Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said that he now supports the practice. "I cannot explain to my mother any longer why she should pay twice or two-thirds more than what is paid in Canada and Mexico," Lott said.

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.

For an article in the Houston Chronicle on McClellan's confirmation, go to: (Article may no longer be available.)