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Berwick to Testify Before House for the First Time

by Benjamin Domenech on February 9, 2011

Don Berwick will appear before the House Ways and Means committee for the first time on Thursday morning at 10 AM.

Given that the appearance will be his first testimony before the House of Representatives — and that unlike the Senate, where Democrat Sen. Max Baucus enforced strict time limits, Republican Chairman Dave Camp will control the hearing — one can expect this to be a far more extensive and hard-hitting examination of Berwick’s views than his brief Senate experience.

One key issue which will probably be focused on during the course of the hearing is past inconsistencies between Berwick’s remarks and those of CMS actuary Richard Foster, who will be joining Berwick as a witness. As Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News noted this week, “They no doubt will have different views on the cost of the bill and some other provisions, but this is a central area that Republicans have wanted to focus on — what does it do, what the law do for seniors and for Medicare — and this is exactly what will be happening at that hearing.”

Perhaps in anticipation of some of the questions he would receive Thursday, Berwick remarked today to the American Medical Association’s annual conference on his commitment to keep the government out of end of life care — or rather, out of the decisionmaking role in end of life care. Of course, this conflicts with his past statements regarding the proper role of the state in end of life care. Berwick’s beloved NHS, the UK’s health system, was recently touted by the Economist Intelligence Unit for ranking at the top in one category, thanks in large part to the abundant provision of painkillers as opposed to extended treatment: quality of death.

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