KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Berwick May Face Difficult Confirmation In Senate

News outlets continue to report on Donald Berwick, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"For two decades, Donald Berwick has made a career of finding innovative ways to improve health care and then persuading hospital administrators and doctors to adopt his recommendations," The Washington Post writes in a profile. "Berwick's admirers in public health describe him as a 'visionary' whose work at the [Institute for Healthcare Improvement] has given him a direct role in transforming the way some of the largest health-care systems in the country do business. Among the initiatives the institute has launched was a national campaign that helped thousands of hospitals implement measures proven to avert patient deaths. Some of the reforms Berwick has championed are as simple as keeping patients propped up to prevent pneumonia or extending visiting hours so patients' loved ones can help monitor them. Other measures have been more complex: developing checklists to cut back on bloodstream infections and creating rapid-response teams to swoop in at the first sign that a patient is deteriorating."

Berwick may face a difficult confirmation process in the Senate. "Democrats in the Senate said that, given Berwick's national stature and broad-based support, he would be easily confirmed under ordinary circumstances. But lingering partisan rancor over the health-care overhaul is almost certain to slow his confirmation, Senate sources in both parties said" (Aizenman, 4/21).

CQ Healthbeat: Berwick faces criticism from Republicans that he favors rationing. Berwick first faces a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee, where "top Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, has promised a thorough vetting of the nomination. Grassley said Tuesday that 'we are going to be very interested in his ideology on whether he thinks government or the private sector is better in determining things,' and 'on what his attitudes are on end of life' issues. Two other Republicans on the committee said they view Berwick as a proponent of rationing. Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said of Berwick, 'He appears to be a big fan of rationing'" (Reichard, 4/20).

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