Grassley: Finance hearing needed to legitimize Berwick

Lining up behind Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are calling on Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to stage a hearing to examine Donald Berwick, the new head of Medicare.

Berwick, a Harvard-based pediatrician and expert in health reform, was installed atop the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through a controversial recess appointment last week. 

In a letter to Baucus delivered Wednesday, Grassley and the other Finance Republicans argued that Berwick's testimony before the committee would ensure that the controversial appointment "does not result in circumventing the open public review that should take place for a nomination of such importance."

"The need for Dr. Berwick to be considered in a transparent and deliberative manner is all the more important because the agency will be responsible for numerous and significant changes to federal health programs including the largest Medicaid coverage expansion since the program’s creation," the Republicans wrote. "Furthermore, this recess appointment will have imposed an injustice on Dr. Berwick himself if it results in preventing him from being able to answer the legitimate questions raised about his nomination."  

"If he is not provided opportunity to present his qualifications for the position in the usual process, it casts a shadow over his legitimacy and authority to serve as Administrator during a critical time for CMS."

The letter arrives just hours after Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee asked Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) to hold a hearing on Berwick in the House. 

Baucus' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.