The top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee claims that CMS Administrator Don Berwick is refusing to hand over key funding information about his former employer, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Last month, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the finance panel, wrote to Berwick, asking him to provide the IHI's last three Form 990 tax disclosure documents and any government waivers made over possible financial conflicts he may have. In particular, Grassley wanted to know whether Berwick and his family were continuing to receive benefits from the institute. IHI tax records going back to 2004 indicate he and his wife were awarded healthcare benefits for life.
Berwick in an Aug. 26 response said he wasn't authorized to disclose some of the information Grassley had requested. “I remain committed to doing whatever I can to comply with your request and any other request from the committee for information related to my nomination,” Berwick wrote. “However, because the information you requested includes non-public documents in the possession of my now former employer, it is not within my power to comply with your entire request.”
Berwick did make available the public portions of the IHI's last three 990 forms for the years 2006, 2007, and 2008. He also emphasized that upon his resignation from IHI, he forfeited all benefits “except for my Vested Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan…As a result, IHI does not currently and will not provide any benefits to me and or my family, including healthcare coverage.”
Grassley wasn't content with Berwick's response.
“Dr. Berwick was recess-appointed without even a committee hearing, which would have looked at his organization's funding and identified possible conflicts of interest in his control of the nation's health care programs. Instead, there's a question mark over his organization's financial dealings,” he said in a written statement.
Without more information, “the taxpayers are in the dark. Stonewalling on basic information is unacceptable,” Grassley said.