Republicans critical as Medicare chief appears

by
November 18, 2010

By Emily Stephenson

(Reuters) – Senate Republicans decried the cost of Medicare and Medicaid and accused the Obama administration of blocking their oversight of the federally supported insurance programs for the elderly and the poor, at a hearing on Wednesday.

It was Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick’s first appearance before lawmakers since his July recess appointment by President Barack Obama, a maneuver that bypassed Senate confirmation hearings.

Berwick said major health legislation passed earlier this year gives the two programs new tools to control costs so they do not run out of money.

“What’s true in every other modern industry is true in healthcare too … doing things right costs less,” Berwick told the Senate Finance Committee. “When we raise the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries, we raise the quality of care for everybody.”

Berwick and committee Democrats said provisions in the health law that strengthen funding for preventive services and allow CMS to experiment with ways to provide more efficient and coordinated care will help reduce costs.

About 45 million elderly and disabled Americans are enrolled in Medicare plans, which have come under fire from critics who say the government pays too much to the companies running them and that they are subject to fraud.

Medicare drew attention last week when the co-chairs of a panel looking at ways to reduce the federal deficit called for sweeping changes to cut the program’s costs.

CMS announced on Tuesday the formal creation of a new innovation center, called for by the health law, that will serve as a testing ground for new practices.

To read more, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AH2HY20101118

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