US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

CMS Administrator Dr. Berwick Finally Testifies Before Senate Finance Committee

Wednesday, November 17, 2010Craig Orfield (202) 224-8584

Washington, D.C – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement at the Senate Finance Committee hearing where Dr. Donald Berwick testified regarding the challenges he faces as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is the first time Dr. Berwick has appeared before Congress since his recess appointment in July to address his intentions for implementation of the unpopular health care law.

Senator Enzi asked Dr. Berwick to address the significant challenges the Medicare and Medicaid programs face as a result of the health care law. Medicare beneficiaries will lose access to providers and benefits as a result of the half trillion dollar cuts included in the health care bill. In his opening statement, Senator Enzi stated:

“Instead of using this money to strengthen the Medicare program, these cuts are being used to pay for a new entitlement program and to fund the largest expansion of the Medicaid program in history.  Additionally, the bill did nothing to fix the formula Medicare uses to pay doctors, and because of this in 14 days, docs will be faced with a 23 percent cut in pay.”

The expansion of Medicaid in the health care law will force 15 million Americans into the program, which is plagued by inadequate reimbursement rates and a shortage of doctors willing to treat enrollees.

“Not only is the care terrible, but Medicaid costs are bankrupting state budgets.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, state Medicaid spending is expected to increase from $138 billion in 2007 to $181 billion in 2011 as a result of the Medicaid expansion in the new health care law,” Senator Enzi said.

Further, Medicare Advantage, which offers extra benefits and greater coordination of care, will see higher out-of-pocket costs due to a reduction in federal rebates, and a decrease in enrollment which will reduce choices.  With the health care law increasing the overall cost of health care coverage, employers will face increasing challenges for providing health care plans for their employees. “I have sympathy for Dr. Berwick as he attempts to make lemonade from this pile of rotting lemons,” Enzi said.  

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