Healthcare Business News

Baucus says Senate won't confirm Berwick

By Rich Daly
Posted: March 8, 2011 - 2:45 pm ET

The Senate will never vote to confirm Dr. Donald Berwick as CMS administrator, according to the Senate Democrat leading his nomination. Berwick is currently serving through a temporary recess appointment.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters Tuesday that he has discussed Berwick's nomination with Republican senators and they plan to oppose Berwick under any circumstances.

“Republicans won,” he said about the nomination.

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Baucus said alternative nominees to the post are "up to the president."

For his part, Berwick told reporters Tuesday that he was grateful for the White House support he has received since 42 Republican senators wrote President Barack Obama last week to request that he withdraw Berwick from consideration. That letter launched speculation that Berwick would step aside because that number of votes in opposition would block the Senate from approving Berwick to head the CMS.

Asked if he has met with any of those Republican senators to address their concerns about him—which stem, in part, from Berwick's past praise of the single-payer British health system—Berwick said he would “meet with anyone in Congress who wants better healthcare.”

Separately, in comments during the Washington meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans, Berwick acknowledged that some clinicians “are frightened” about a loss of control over their patients' care due to changes coming through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But he assured clinicians that they will actually gain control, through measures like improved care coordination among clinicians treating the same patient.

Berwick also urged insurers to suggest better ways federal health officials can combat the “serious” problem of fraud.

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