CMS chief faces off against GOP on ACA’s merits
CMS Administrator Donald Berwick’s appearance before a powerful House committee last week was much more than an opportunity for him to explain how the administration’s healthcare reform law is affecting the Medicare program and its beneficiaries.
It was also the first glimpse of Berwick answering to members of an energized Republican-led 112th Congress and a test of his own sustainability, in addition to the law’s, before he faces confirmation hearings in the Senate this year.
The first face-off between Berwick and the current Congress came Feb. 10, when he testified and answered questions about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for nearly two-and-a-half hours at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is tasked with writing tax legislation and bills that affect Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs.
But the major theme of the morning and early afternoon was the inherent philosophical conflict between Berwick, who believes the law will transform healthcare in America, and the committee’s Republicans, who believe the law compromises the fundamental American principle of free choice and will lead the country down a path to economic ruin.
Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) began by mentioning that Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee in the last Congress had asked their Democratic counterparts on three occasions to invite Berwick for an appearance, but that last week’s meeting was not only the first time Berwick testified before Ways and Means, but before any House committee at all.
Camp later asked Berwick about the Harvard-trained pediatrician’s earlier praise for a single-payer system, and whether he believed the United Kingdom’s National Health Service is a good model for the U.S.—to which Berwick said America needs an American solution to its healthcare problems. Camp and others repeatedly pressed Berwick for a simple “yes” or “no”
Berwick defends himself and the reform law before the House Ways and Means panel.