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Hearing on Strengthening Medicare and Medicaid: Taking Steps to Modernize America’s Health Care System

Donald Berwick submitted testimony:

To watch the hearing click here.

Chairman Baucus, Ranking Member Grassley, and Members of the Committee; thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss ways to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid and modernize America’s health care delivery system. The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March of this year, is landmark health care legislation that is bringing comprehensive insurance reforms, expanded coverage, and enhanced quality of health care to all Americans. Millions of people across the country are already benefiting from this law, including the more than 100 million people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Because of the Affordable Care Act, the fiscal future of Medicare is stronger, new tools to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud are returning money to the Trust Funds and the Treasury, Medicare beneficiaries have new benefits and lower costs, and State Medicaid programs have additional resources and options to expand coverage, which is especially important in these challenging economic times.

As a pediatrician, I have witnessed both the best and the worst of the American health care system. I had the opportunity to practice pediatrics for 20 years in an organization that promoted integrated care, and saw firsthand the enormous difference that a doctor, nurse, and patient working together can make in health care outcomes. I have devoted my career to the belief that all patients deserve access to high quality health care, regardless of who they are or whether they live in a large city or a small rural community. High quality health care does not necessarily mean the most expensive health care. It means safe care, free from medical injuries, errors and infections; it means reliable care, based on the best available science; and it means person-centered care, in which each patient is treated with dignity and respect for his or her own unique preferences.

These core beliefs will continue to shape my work at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). As Administrator, protecting and strengthening Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP is my top priority. And the Affordable Care Act has provided a number of important tools to help achieve this goal. It explicitly protects the guaranteed Medicare benefits on which so many seniors and individuals with disabilities rely. It will not cut these guaranteed benefits, nor will it ration care. The Affordable Care Act does not prescribe a ―one size fits all‖ approach to health care, because health care is first and foremost about caring for unique individuals. The Affordable Care Act incentivizes hospitals to improve the quality of care and prevent unnecessary readmissions, which are often harmful to patients.

CMS can help lead health care improvement in many ways. With new provisions in the Affordable Care Act, you have presented CMS with additional opportunities to work with others both in the public and private sector to make real improvements in the nation’s health care delivery systems.

CMS can and should be…

For complete testimony transcript, click here.

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