CMS Chief Dr. Donald Berwick Favors ACOs

Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “can’t imagine a worse idea than repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act healthcare reform law.  “Without the individual mandate, the intention to extend coverage, especially to people with chronic illnesses, would unravel,” Berwick said in a recent speech to the Commonwealth Club of California.  According to Berwick, the requirement is “bearing your share of responsibility for your health.”

Berwick believes the new healthcare reform law “has got more resources in it and texture than I imagined.”  One of the law’s biggest opportunities, Berwick said, is accountable-care organizations (ACOs); CMS is planning to release proposed ACO regulations in January.  Berwick said that there is no single approach to creating an ACO because of differences between local resources, providers, and even geography.  “I think we are going to see a rebirth of organizations able to make care a journey and not fragmentation.  Organizations will have memories about patients, not amnesia,” Berwick said.  “Withholding needed care is one of the worst plans you can imagine.

Berwick warned that there will be two sides to the transformation that healthcare reform will bring.  One will be “authentic, they will be the real partners on a great national expedition,” he said.  Others “will become cloaks of the status quo.”  The federal government has committed $10 billion over the next decade to the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, a program that will test new approaches – as well as models of care and payment — that can improve health services.

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