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Medicare Chief Berwick to Testify at Senate Hearing

Medicare Chief Berwick to Appear at Senate Hearing Nov. 17
Dr. Donald Berwick was appointed to the post of medicare administrator in July in a recess appointment. Photographer: David Rogowski/Bloomberg

Medicare Administrator Donald Berwick will face critics of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul next week, his first appearance before Congress since he was appointed in a process that bypassed the Senate.

Berwick will testify at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, and the Medicaid program for the poor, the panel said today in a statement. Republicans such as the panel’s ranking member, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, for months have said they want to question Berwick on the health-care law.

“It’s overdue, and it should be the first of many,” Grassley said of Berwick’s appearance.

Berwick doesn’t have plans to testify before the House of Representatives, where Republicans take control in January after winning a majority in elections on Nov. 2. He manages the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, controlling a projected $962 billion this year.

“We expect to get to know Mr. Berwick very well,” Sage Eastman, a spokesman for Republican Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, said in an e-mail today. Camp is in line to take over the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare.

Berwick was named to the post in a recess appointment while Congress was out of session in July, bypassing the traditional Senate confirmation process.

The overhaul would reduce the growth of spending in Medicare and Medicaid by about $455 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the accounting arm of Congress.

Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, of which Medicare is a part, said that Berwick decided to testify after being invited by Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee.

“There are a lot of questions that he’ll need to answer next week,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, in an e-mail. Hatch is in line to be the ranking Republican on the finance panel next year.

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