CMS Chief Answers to Congress, Provides Few Details on Reform’s Early Progress

August 23, 2017

The first opportunity for the House to fire questions at Obama recess appointee (to CMS head) Donald Berwick, MD took place yesterday. Berwick took the time to affirm that the new healthcare law is already benefiting the elderly, would not raise premium costs in MA plans, and that House Republicans’ efforts to repeal the law were “unfortunate”. The all-powerful Ways and Means Cmte. walked away from Berwick’s testimony essentially unimpressed. The new CMS chief rebuffed Committee concerns over CMS actuarial data and testimony that forecasted higher costs and lower enrollment in MA plans as changes in government payments under the new healthcare law go into effect.

Berwick said that Medicare Advantage providers have been aggressive in advertising and enrolling new beneficiaries. […] ”This law means real improvements for Medicare beneficiaries, now and in the future,” Berwick said in his written testimony to the Ways and Means Committee. “That’s why the House vote to repeal this law was unfortunate.”

Seems an easy path for Berwick to take, as more Boomer healthcare consumers have begun to reach qualification for enrollment. Time will tell, however, if such mechanisms under reform (such as modifying the medical loss ratio in plans to cut administrative costs, the negative trajectory of HMO profits as a result of increases in MA and Medicare enrollment, and many anti-fraud initiatives) will back Berwick up in his assumptions.