KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Berwick To Testify For First Time As Medicare/Medicaid Chief

Medicare and Medicaid chief Donald Berwick will testify before a congressional committee Wednesday for the first time since President Barack Obama avoided the Senate confirmation process -- to Republican protest -- by using a recess appointment to install Berwick as the administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Berwick's nomination to run the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services drew harsh criticism from Republicans," Politico reports. "They seized on his professed admiration for Britain's National Health Service, deriding the Harvard professor as an ominous 'rationer in chief.'" And, questions along those lines are likely to be unleashed (Kliff, 11/16).

Kaiser Health News posted an advance copy of his prepared statement, and also has a resource guide, which includes Berwick's own words about the British health care system. 

The Hill: Berwick will preempt possible Republican criticisms. He "will testify Wednesday that the Democrats' healthcare law does not ration care nor cut guaranteed Medicare benefits, according to his prepared remarks." Prepared remarks circulated Monday indicated Berwick will say, "The Affordable Care Act does not prescribe a 'one size fits all' approach to health care because health care is first and foremost about caring for unique individuals" (Pecquet, 11/15).

That may not be enough for the likes of Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who has been a vocal critic. The Kansas Health Institute reports, Roberts and his GOP colleagues "will get their chance" to take long-awaited digs at Berwick. In September, Roberts said, "The American people deserve to hear Dr. Berwick's plans for radically reforming the American health care system directly from the man himself. … They deserve to hear him explain: His long history of support for rationing; how he plans on 'bending the cost curve down' now that it's clear Obamacare will not; how he came to his conclusions on the amount of 'waste' in our current system; and finally, [why] he supports tightly restricted single-payer health care that only the very rich can circumvent" (McLean, 11/15).

CQ HealthBeat: Other than some new information about a Medicare experiment to build "medical homes," Berwick "made little news in his comments, which largely outline the provisions of the health care law and tout the actions that Medicare and Medicaid officials have taken to implement it. ... The hearing will come as the committee plans to start work on the repeal of a controversial provision in the health care law, which requires businesses to file tax forms for expenses over $600" (Adams, 11/15).

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