Medicare chief: Keep gov't out of end-of-life care planning

Death panel rumors were revived late last year when it was discovered that an administration regulation would have reimbursed doctors for holding end-of-life care discussions with Medicare patients in new annual wellness visits. Some conservatives accused the administration of quietly trying to sneak through "death panels," and the rule was later withdrawn.

The issue is far from dead, though. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Hill last month that he plans to reintroduce his bill that would pay Medicare doctors for holding end-of-life discussions with patients. His bill was originally introduced in 2009 with Republican backing.

Berwick made the remarks Wednesday morning to the American Medical Association's annual advocacy conference.

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee will get their first chance to grill Berwick during a Thursday hearing. Though the focus will be on healthcare reform's impact on Medicare, House Republicans may use their first opportunity to question Berwick on his rationing views, as well as flaws they say are rampant through the reform law.