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Medicare Chief Berwick Defends U.S. Health Law to Republicans

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Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Medicare Administrator Donald Berwick, in his first appearance before Congress since his appointment, told critics of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul that the law will improve care.

Berwick, who was named in a process that bypassed the Senate, testified today at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, and the Medicaid program for the poor.

“When we raise the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries we raise the quality of care for all Americans,” he said.

Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the Finance Committee, said repealing the law signed in March would deepen the budget deficit.

Berwick was named to the post in a recess appointment while Congress was out of session in July, bypassing the traditional Senate confirmation process. Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa today called Berwick’s recess appointment “incredibly unfortunate.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, called the hearing “pathetic,” and said the prospects of having to leave to cast a vote will leave members with no time to ask all their questions.

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

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at