KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Liberal Health Reform Group Pushing Hard To Save Lawmakers, Berwick Won’t Disclose Donors

Politico: The liberal health group Health Care for America Now is "fighting hard to help reelect lawmakers who voted for the [health reform] bill - even if it means not talking about it. … HCAN activists say they are not dodging their key issue; rather, they want to keep pace with voter concerns, which have markedly shifted over the past year. But what HCAN describes as a tactical shift reform opponents see as proof that the law is unpopular, a loser for Democrats in a tough election cycle." Polling by the American Action Forum has found health reform support is lower in competitive districts ahead of November's midterm elections (Kliff, 8/30).

The Washington Times: Meanwhile, Dr. Donald Berwick, the head of Medicare and Medicaid, won't disclose who helped fund the Institute for Healthcare Improvement he helped co-found as well where the funding for a $900,000 compensation package and a "seven-figure executive retirement plan" for him came from. "Last week, Dr. Berwick, who is administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), declined to release information about donors to the nonprofit group where he served as chief executive, saying he no longer worked there and had no authority to release information that was not public. In a letter to Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Dr. Berwick said he has complied fully with the ethics rules." Some are worried about a conflict of interest if health plans, medical device companies or others involved in health care contributed to the institute. "Grassley said the donor details remain important because unlike most political nominees, Dr. Berwick didn't go through the standard confirmation process whereby senators could question him about his background during a confirmation hearing" (McElhatton, 8/29).

The Hill: In other news, some state Medicaid chiefs' have opted to leave the National Association of State Medicaid Directors to form their own lobbying group. "Since 1979, NASMD, an [American Public Human Services Association] affiliate, has represented the nation's Medicaid directors in Washington. But NASMD's 12-member executive committee voted this month to split from APHSA and create a separate organization, the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD)." NASMD also fired its director and replaced her with a 31-year veteran of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "APHSA officials are quick to note that many state Medicaid directors are not their own bosses, but instead work within state human services departments. With that in mind, APHSA says, it will be difficult for those Medicaid programs to join the new group, even if their leaders prefer the stand-alone model" (Lillis, 8/26).

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