No slam-dunk for Berwick ...
CMS confirmation likely to get GOP resistance
A longtime healthcare-quality advocate could get lost in the political turmoil on Capitol Hill as fallout from the hyperpartisan reform debate continues. Physician Donald Berwick, 63, a founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (See related story, this page), reportedly has landed as the White House’s choice to run the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Under the new reform law, the CMS will influence everything from overhaul of the insurance sector to the oversight of new provider payment formulas and the practices that support it.
But with the memory of the almost yearand-a-half-long fight between Democrats and Republicans lingering, several sources said, the Berwick nomination—once official—will face tough sledding. The nomination would have to clear the conservativeleaning Senate Finance Committee before a vote by the full Senate.
A senior Republican Senate aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted “a serious set of hearings,” and added, “It’s going to be a challenge.”
Berwick, through a spokes- woman, declined to comment.
The senior Republican on the committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has already hinted about the tough task ahead.
“This is always a big job, but the administration of healthcare reform, which includes implementing the hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts and the biggest expansion of Medicaid in its history, will make it more challenging than ever,” Grassley said in a written statement. “The Finance Committee vetting will need to explore the nominee’s preparedness for the enormous challenges that face the agency.”
It remains unclear when the nomination will be made official. Berwick’s name had come up in discussions before, dating back to last year, but it became clear that the White House did not plan to announce a nominee for the administrator’s post until after the health reform bills cleared the House and Senate.
The last confirmed CMS administrator was Mark McClellan, who held the post from 2004 through 2006 in the Bush administration, implementing many of the changes born from
Berwick is reportedly Obama’s choice for CMS administrator.