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Democrats Refuse Republican, Media Requests for Public Hearings with Medicare Chief

July 23, 2010

Washington, DC – Hours before The Washington Post ran an editorial entitled “The public deserves a hearing for a Medicare appointee,” the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin (D-MI), denied a request from the Committee’s Republican members for such a hearing with recently appointed CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick. 

Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) called the Democrats’ decision to put off any hearing “an abdication of our oversight responsibilities.”  Even The Washington Post noted that Dr. Berwick “has made numerous controversial statements about which Republicans ought to have been able to question him fully. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Baucus and the administration seem disinclined to have that happen, and it lends credence to suggestions that the administration was motivated…by a desire to avoid a public debate about Dr. Berwick’s views.”

Camp went on to say:

“Apparently, House Democrats are really taking Speaker Pelosi’s ‘we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it’ style of governing to heart.  Now, we have to hand the reins at CMS over to Dr. Berwick first so we can later find out what direction he will take Medicare and Medicaid.  Seniors are facing over one-half trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, cuts which Dr. Berwick’s own agency found could jeopardize seniors’ access to care, yet Democrats refuse to bring him before the Committee.

“At a time when Democrats have implemented the most radical changes ever to the nation’s health care system, they are refusing to conduct the proper and necessary oversight required by the Committee. Despite the one-half trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, estimates that health care costs will continue to skyrocket and billions of dollars in increased costs to small businesses as a result of their health care bill, the Committee has not held a hearing with the HHS Secretary in more than a year and has yet to bring the CMS Chief Actuary before the Committee this Congress despite repeated requests by Committee Republicans.”

History of Health Care Oversight Hearings at the Ways and Means Committee:

  • HHS Secretary – Last appeared before the Committee 444 days ago
  • Medicare Payment Advisory Commission – Last appeared before the Committee 494 days ago
  • CMS Chief Actuary — Last appeared before the Committee 844 days ago
  • CMS Administrator — Last appeared before the Committee 891 days ago