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Moving Forward to Protect Seniors' Care

Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer discusses the recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In April, President Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.

But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing. That’s why tomorrow the President will use a recess appointment to put Dr. Berwick at the agency’s helm and provide strong leadership for the Medicare program without delay.

CMS has been without a permanent administrator since 2006, and even many Republicans have called on the Administration to move to quickly to name a permanent head.

There’s no question that Don Berwick is the right choice to be our next CMS administrator: he’s the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and has spent decades as a practicing physician and a Harvard professor. He’s dedicated his career to finding ways to make our health care system work better for patients and cost less for taxpayers.

Dr. Berwick has the support of hundreds of health care groups and experts, including the AARP, the American Medical Association, and the CMS administrators under the most recent Republican presidents. As Mark McClellan, who served as Administrator under President George W. Bush from 2004-2006, said:

“What happens at CMS in the next few years will determine whether the new legislation actually improves quality and lowers costs.  Don [Berwick] has a unique background in both improving care on the ground and thinking about how our nation’s health care policies need to be reformed to help make that happen.”

The new tasks and deadlines put in place by the Affordable Care Act call for exactly the kind of vision that has earned Dr. Berwick this bipartisan praise. His experience challenging health care institutions to improve makes him the right Administrator to set up the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation – which will harness new ideas to strengthen seniors’ care while reducing the deficit and slowing the growth in costs.

His deep firsthand knowledge of our health care system makes him the right Administrator to tackle the law’s requirements, particularly that CMS improve nursing home care, reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, and expand coverage to millions of Americans who need it most. The Affordable Care Act attaches a January 1 deadline to many of these priorities, making steady, experienced leadership all the more critical.

We’re looking forward to Dr. Berwick’s service.

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director