CMS's Berwick defends Medicare Advantage projections

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Don Berwick
Don Berwick

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick surprised lawmakers Thursday when he reported better-than-expected Medicare Advantage enrollment numbers. In just his second occasion before a Congressional panel, Berwick appeared before the U.S. House Ways and Means committee to discuss how the Affordable Care Act will impact seniors.

Skeptical House members pressed Berwick about enrollment levels of Medicare Advantage plans. The administrator told them that, despite earlier projections, enrollment has increased 6%, to more than 12 million beneficiaries. Of those beneficiaries, Berwick said, 6% have seen a reduction in premiums. When asked why his statistics were different than bleaker estimates provided by CMS Chief Actuary David Foster, Berwick replied that his figures were based on information “on the ground now.”

President Obama appointed Berwick to his position during a Congressional recess, bypassing potentially contentious Senate confirmation hearings and angering Republicans. The president has since renominated Berwick for another term.

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