GOP Questions Berwick's Ties To Industry

The Hill reports that Republicans are charging the Obama administration with evading questions on Dr. Donald Berwick's ties to the health care industry. President Barack Obama used a recess appointment this week to install Berwick as head of the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid after key Republicans had raised concerns about Berwick's views. "The memo from a staffer for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) suggests that by using a recess appointment to place Donald Berwick at the head of the agency running Medicare, the administration may be avoiding questions about whether Berwick's healthcare institute received undisclosed funding from industry groups. The memo also raises questions with Berwick's stance on euthanasia."

Berwick's Institute for Healthcare Improvement got millions in gifts from donors in 2009 who are unknown, Grassley charges, while Berwick was paid $2.4 million as CEO. "The memo said Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare, was also waiting for responses to questions to Berwick about whether he had links to a group that advocates for patients' right to die" (Pecquet, 7/8).

The Hill, in a separate story: The chief health staffer to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is moving to the Department of Health and Human Services, specifically the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Liz Fowler, who formerly was a WellPoint vice-president for public policy and external affairs, "has been credited with writing many of the provisions in the centrist healthcare bill approved by the Senate Finance panel." Questions persist, however, about Fowler's own ties to the insurance industry (Pecquet, 7/8).

Inside Health Policy: America's Health Insurance Plans has elected Vicky Gregg, the CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, to chair the board of directors for AHIP. Gregg is a nurse and an electronic health records expert. "Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), points out that Gregg takes on the role as the industry works to implement the new law in a way that minimizes disruption for the 200 million beneficiaries already covered while also bringing new people into the system" (Lotven, 7/8).

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