Obama picks Donald Berwick of Harvard to run Medicare and Medicaid

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

President Obama formally announced Monday his nominee for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, fulfilling widespread expectations that he would tap Donald Berwick, a Harvard University professor and leading advocate for improving health-care quality and efficiency.

If confirmed by the Senate, Berwick will play a pivotal -- and challenging -- role in implementing the recently enacted health-care overhaul legislation. The agency, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, must oversee a massive expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor, with an estimated 16 million people expected to join its rolls by 2020. At the same time, Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly, will need to reduce payments to health-care providers by about $400 billion over 10 years without impacting the quality of coverage.

Berwick, who specializes in health-care policy and pediatrics, has never led such a large organization. As head of the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, however, he is known for persuading doctors and hospitals to adopt innovative methods for reducing medical errors.

-- N.C. Aizenman

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