House Republicans renew request for Berwick testimony

House Ways and Means Republicans on Friday renewed their request for a hearing with Don Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Their first request was on July 14.

In a letter to Committee Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the 15 Republicans on the panel reminded Levin that on July 22 the chairman had indicated a willingness to have Berwick before the committee "after [he] has been in office for a period of time." President Obama installed Berwick by recess appointment in early July.

Berwick is controversial because of his past statements that the government should "ration with our eyes open." Republicans have picked up on those statements and the healthcare reform law's cuts in Medicare payments to insurance plans and providers to argue that Berwick would curtail seniors' benefits.

"We are eager to hear his plans for CMS," the letter states, "because Medicare's own actuaries predict that the one-half trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare in the recently enacted health law could result in providers no longer treating seniors, jeopardizing their access to care."

Senate Finance Republicans Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) sent a letter to Berwick himself on Monday asking him to request a hearing with their panel.