KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

White House Reportedly Set To Name Dr. Donald Berwick To Head Medicare

The New York Times  reports that President Barack Obama will soon nominate Dr. Donald M. Berwick to "run Medicare and Medicaid, the programs that serve nearly one-third of all Americans, administration officials said Saturday. Dr. Berwick … has repeatedly challenged doctors and hospitals to provide better care at a lower cost. He says the government and insurers can increase the quality and efficiency of care by basing payments on the value of services, not the volume. Mr. Obama plans to nominate Dr. Berwick to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services that has been without a permanent chief since October 2006, when Dr. Mark B. McClellan stepped down" (Pear, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal reports that the "top post at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be one of the most critical to implementing the president's health overhaul that became law this past week. … Dr. Berwick runs the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement and is a pediatrics and health policy professor at Harvard University. His focus has been to improve patient safety by applying more systemized procedures to the medical field. … If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Berwick will face an enormous task in the new job. The agency must prepare for a massive expansion of the Medicaid federal-state insurance program starting in 2014. The program is expected to add some 16 million Americans by the end of the decade. … For the Medicare insurance program for the elderly, the top challenge will be phasing in more than $400 billion in cuts over the next decade to health-care providers who participate in insurance program for the elderly without weakening it" (Adamy and Meckler, 3/27).

The Associated Press reports: "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services runs the government health care programs for seniors and the poor, providing benefits to an estimated 100 million people - about 1 in 3 Americans. … An administration official confirmed Obama's intentions on condition of anonymity because the president has not made his decision public. That announcement is expected soon" (Feller, 3/27).

Kaiser Health News featured an interview with Dr. Berwick in November. It has been republished here.

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