KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Likely CMS Pick Berwick Has Big Ideas On Fixing U.S. Health Care Delivery

Dr. Donald Berwick is reportedly the president's choice to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Berwick "has been a sometimes provocative advocate for more efficient delivery of patient care," the Los Angeles Times reports. As head of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, "Berwick has been a blunt critic of the U.S. healthcare delivery system...." Len Nichols, a health care economist at George Mason University, predicts that "Berwick will try to improve the quality of care in part by changing the structure of incentives for doctors and other healthcare professionals so that they are rewarded for better outcomes instead of on a per procedure basis."

If Berwick is confirmed, "[h]e will be taking a hefty pay cut. Government salaries top out at about $200,000 a year, less than a third of the $637,000 he earned running the Institute in 2007, according to the group's nonprofit IRS filing for that year" (Zajac, 3/29).

Newsweek has a list of five reasons why "Berwick's appointment as a lot of people in the blogosphere excited." One reason is that "[h]is name is synonymous with 'reducing medical errors.' … Hospitals could save perhaps as many as 100,000 lives, he said, by implementing a few simple reforms: keep respirators sterile (lessening the chance of hospital-acquired pneumonia), do the same for catheters and surgical sites (mostly by easy mechanisms, such as having doctors wash their hands more often), have rapid-response teams at the ready, give reliable and consistent care to heart-attack patients, make sure people actually get the medicines they're prescribed" (Carmichael, 3/29).

Related, earlier KHN video and story: Checking In With Dr. Donald Berwick (Galewitz)

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