The much-anticipated grilling of Medicare chief Dr. Donald Berwick by Senate Republicans was cut short by a scheduled vote, prompting one senator to call the hearing "pathetic."
Republican senators, led by healthcare hawk Charles Grassley of Iowa, had planned a long list of questions designed to put Berwick on the hot seat. His appointment in July caused consternation and protest among Republicans, who charged that President Barack Obama side-stepped their opposition by installing Berwick during a Congressional recess.
The 10 a.m. hearing was to last only an hour, as the Senate Finance Panel was slated for a vote at 11. The short slot, and the limit of five minutes’ speaking time for each legislator, prompted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to call the hearing "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. "This is pathetic. My gosh, we ought to have time to ask the most important man in America on healthcare some important questions."
In his opening remarks, Berwick defended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, calling it "landmark healthcare legislation that is bringing comprehensive insurance reforms, expanded coverage and enhanced quality of health care to all Americans." Kaiser Health News has the full text of his prepared remarks, and C-Span has video of the hearing.