Berwick Calls on Insurers to Work With CMS

Janice Simmons, September 14, 2010

In his first major speech since becoming head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) two months ago, Donald Berwick, MD, on Monday urged insurers—along with employers, professional groups, and communities—to join together in advancing healthcare reform goals.

"All of us have to change the way we do business," he told attendees at the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) conference on Medicare and Medicaid in Washington. "There's plenty of work ahead. I just know I can't do this alone. CMS can't do this alone. Government can't do this alone. We will either build a new healthcare system for our country together...or we're not going to build it at all."

But Berwick also emphasized--in what might considered a continuation of the tug-of-war relationship between CMS and AHIP over healthcare reform issues--that those who wish "only to preserve the status quo" are not going to be "constructive contributors to our nation's future."

Berwick's presentation before AHIP comes just a few days after his boss, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a sternly worded letter to the trade group for some of its members "falsely blaming" the healthcare reform law for rate hikes for the upcoming year.

"It's a stark, clear reality that our healthcare system, in its current form, is not up to that job," Berwick said. "We cannot, with our current system of care, give Americans the care that they need and want and deserve."

As a way to pursue changes, Berwick said, "My door is wide open. It's open to the associations, delivery systems, professions, and other leaders who will join authentically in the pursuit of the 'Triple Aim' for America," he said in reference to an article he co-wrote two years ago in Health Affairs.

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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