Medicare, Medicaid Head Rallies Insurance Companies

Controversial CMS chief wants insurers to work with healthcare providers to make reform work.CMS administrator Donald Berwick has asked the insurance industry to work in good faith to implement healthcare reform in a timely manner. Dr. Berwick made his plea at a Medicare conference sponsored by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance industry’s trade group.

“We need your help, our nation needs your help,” Dr. Berwick said, noting that companies, CEOs, healthcare professionals and managers all play a role in achieving the objective, yet the insurance industry “can be among the keys of our success, the central part in navigating the success of healthcare reform.  We have a job to do, we need to make care better for America.”  Berwick told the audience that he plans to work with others at CMS to build relationships and partnerships to assure that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act works as intended.  “If we steadily work together to make care what it can become, trust will resurface and the rest will follow,’ he said.

Dr. Berwick, who President Barack Obama named to his post in a recess appointment that bypassed the Senate confirmation process, is not well liked by Republicans because he once wrote an article that praised Britain’s National Health Service, raising concern that he will introduce healthcare rationing.  He tried to allay those fears by saying “I urge lower costs without harming a hair on any patient’s head.  It’s a clear, stark reality.  Our healthcare system, in its current form, is not up to that job.  We cannot, with our current system of care, give Americans the care that they need and want and deserve.”

The most pressing issue is improving patient safety and cutting deaths that result from unnecessary medical errors, a specialty that Dr. Berwick developed when he headed the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  He also called for improved prevention and treatment of diseases like obesity and depression.

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