Outgoing CMS Administrator Tom Scully was replaced today by Dennis Smith, the former director of the CMS Center for Medicaid and State Operations. A CMS release this morning named Smith as the interim replacement for Scully, who stepped down Tuesday following an announcement of his departure on Dec. 3.
Smith oversaw the Virginia Medicaid program before joining CMS in July 2001. He has been involved in carrying out HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's campaign to make CMS more flexible in dealings with state Medicaid programs, allowing states waivers from federal requirements to develop their own programs. At CMS, Smith also oversaw the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
However, rumors persist that the permanent position will go to an outsider, such as William Winkenwerder Jr., M.D., the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Winkenwerder's office has refused to comment on the speculation.
CMS adds that Leslie Norwalk will remain deputy administrator and chief operating officer at CMS and will "continue to be the CMS lead" in carrying out the Medicare legislation signed by President Bush last week.
Before Scully announced his resignation, he was criticized for receiving calls from prospective employers--some of whom had an interest in the Medicare reform bill--while the final version was being negotiated.
But Scully says he did not initiate any of the calls and that when he realized the potential ethical conflict, he obtained a waiver from federal ethics rules allowing him to engage in the conversations.
Scully also has been known for his brash style, including sending a threatening e-mail earlier this year to an employee at the public-polling firm the Gallup Group, in which Scully called him a "jerk." Scully later apologized for the incident.
Smith is described as soft-spoken and the opposite of Scully, who was known for brash statements and close relationships with the media.
According to one reporter's account, Smith is "low-key, shy and reluctant to talk the press."