Donald Berwick will step into the lion’s den on Capitol Hill this week, when the new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid chief is slated to testify before a U.S. House panel on what impact last year’s landmark Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act will have on Medicare.
Berwick is set to appear before the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday in what will likely be a somewhat contentious atmosphere. Berwick has been a lightning rod for Republican anger since his recess appointment last summer. President Barack Obama re-nominated Berwick last month following his State of the Union address.
Committee chair Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) said in a prepared release that it was “the committee’s responsibility to oversee the Medicare program and to fully understand the impact the recently enacted health law will have on the seniors and disabled Americans who rely on it.”
Berwick’s last appointment on the Hill ended early when a vote cut short his appearance in front of a Senate Finance Panel in November. Back then Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called the abbreviated hearings “pathetic.”
“It’s like asking us to drain the Pacific Ocean with a thimble. This cannot simply be a check-the-box enterprise,” Hatch said at the time. “This is pathetic. My gosh, we ought to have time to ask the most important man in America on healthcare some important questions.”
Berwick will likely be given ample time in the hot seat to answer the Republican-controlled committee’s questions. Richard Foster, the chief actuary for CMS, is also scheduled to appear.