Berwick Sworn In; First Public Event To Announce Health IT Regs

Physician and Harvard professor Donald Berwick was sworn in to become the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Monday, The Boston Globe reports. Chris Hager, the agency's New England regional director, conducted the swearing-in ceremony in Boston. "Obama bypassed the Senate confirmation process and named Berwick in a recess appointment during the congressional July Fourth vacation to avoid a battle over the nomination promised by Republicans" (Rowland, 7/12).

"In one of his first acts as administrator, Berwick will be in Washington on Tuesday morning to help unveil final health information technology regulations," Modern Healthcare reports. While Republicans blasted the recess appointment, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., defended Berwick, saying he "is simply, hands down, the best person" to implement the changes required by the health overhaul. He "said that the president's signature on the 4-month-old health reform law was only the beginning, and that the measures would not go far if they were not applied 'both vigorously and wisely'" (DoBias, 7/12).

Regarding Berwick's first public appearance Tuesday, The Hill reports, the "agency that oversees Medicare is slated to unveil final regulations regarding electronic health records Tuesday morning. Last year's recovery act set aside $2 billion for doctors and hospitals who adopt the technology quickly, but also calls for penalties for those who fail to make the shift to a paperless system by 2015" (Pecquet, 7/12).

"The announcement follows a period of public comment after the proposed rule was published in January," Government Health IT, a publication of an industry group called the Health Information and Management Systems Society, reports. The rule defines "meaningful use" for doctors and hospitals seeking to qualify for federal incentive payments as they adopt e-health systems. "In its proposed meaningful use rule, CMS required 25 measures for providers and 23 for hospitals to show they were using [electronic health records] to improve healthcare outcomes in order to qualify for payments. CMS has grouped measure by healthcare priorities, including quality and safety, patient engagement, care coordination, public health, and privacy and security" (Mosquera, 7/12).

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