Ber­wick’s pre­miere

CMS chief faces off against GOP on ACA’s mer­its

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Jessica Zig­mond

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.

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