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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Don Berwick to Head CMS

Don Berwick, whom I'm honored to have worked with in the past, has been appointed by President Obama to head CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Don is a mesmerizing speaker and a wonderful physician and human being who has encouraged an entire generation of physicians to bring industrial quality improvement methods to health care. Don founded and has headed the Institute for Healthcare Improvement since leaving Harvard in the 1990s. He has a broad constituency in medicine across many disciplines. I believe he's an excellent physician who is committed to high quality health care in the U.S. in a non-partisan way, despite my having read that Republicans criticize him for having written positive things about England's national health insurance system. Don has praised England's recent emphasis on quality and performance improvement, and it would be pretty hard to argue with that change, whether one favors a single-payer system or not (I do only if it is structured to preserve competition among and choice of providers based on quality of care).

I am hopeful that Don's insight will help Medicare implement the healthcare reform legislation in a way that will promote and preserve quality of care in Medicare as well as the private insurance system. I am encouraged by Don's background in clinical medicine (he is a pediatrician by training although I don't know when he last practiced), and quality of care. Don is an excellent choice and I hope his philosophy can filter down to CMS' day to day operations. As we know, sometimes leaders of federal agencies don't influence their own bureaucracies too much, because managers of individual departments can subvert the intent of the agencies' directors. Don, however, is an inspiring leader who has been an effective leader in several organizations in the past, and I wish him all the best at CMS.

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