KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Reps. Grill CMS Chief Berwick About Health Reform Law, Earlier Remarks On British System

Boston Globe: Berwick testifies before US House Ways and Means Committee, Defends Health Care Law 
Republicans on the US House Committee on Ways and Means this morning pounded Donald Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on the effects of the new health care law on seniors, and Berwick's past statements in praise of the publicly-funded British health care system. Republicans argued throughout the hearing that cuts in Medicare called for by President Obama's health care overhaul are leading to doctors dropping patients with Medicare, and denying seniors choices in their health care. ... "I believe the Affordable Care Act is the right solution for America," said Berwick (Arsenault. 2/10).

Kaiser Health News has a resource guide that includes profiles of Dr. Berwick, transcripts of his speeches about the British health care system and summaries of news coverage about his appointment.  

The Washington Post: Unable To Question Him Before, Republicans Tear Into Top Medicare Official
Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wasted no time. "Are you still in love with the [British] National Health Service?" Camp asked as the second question of the hearing. "Every system has its strengths and weaknesses," Berwick replied. "Is that a yes or a no?" Camp shot back. ... The exchange during the hearing's opening moments set the tenor of a caustic parry between Republican and Democratic lawmakers as Berwick, calmly and doggedly, made the Obama administration's case for the new federal law to overhaul the nation's health-care system. "I think this law turns the lights on" to bring about more efficient and higher-quality care, he said. ... During Berwick's nearly 21/2 hours in the witness chair, neither Republican nor Democratic lawmakers said anything new (Goldstein, 2/10). 

The Hill: Berwick 'Hopes' He's Put Rationing Fears To Rest
"A lot of the quotes represent misconceptions about what I believe," Berwick said. "They are selected - small lines from long papers - and I said what I believe." However, it's likely that the questioning hasn't been put to rest. Berwick was renominated for the administrator job last month, and he'll have to face a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing in order to hold onto the top spot. Ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has already called Berwick's renomination a "disappointing decision" (Millman, 2/10).

Reuters: Medicare Chief Says Health Law Working 
President Barack Obama's chief of health programs for the elderly and poor on Thursday said the year-old U.S. healthcare overhaul was helping millions of Americans and called a push by congressional Republicans to repeal the law unfortunate. ... A measure blocking funding for the law is expected to be taken up by the Republican-led House next week. "In talking to people from around the country and reading the letters I've received, I've learned firsthand how the law is giving Americans more freedom in their health care choices and more security in their coverage," Berwick said. ... Republicans say planned cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, which uses private insurance providers such as Humana Inc (HUM.N) and UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) to deliver services, will lead to benefit cuts (Smith, 2/10).

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