WASHINGTON — Republicans on the US House Committee on Ways and Means this morning pounded Donald Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on the effects of the new health care law on seniors, and Berwick’s past statements in praise of the publicly-funded British health care system.
Republicans argued throughout the hearing that cuts in Medicare called for by President Obama’s health care overhaul are leading to doctors dropping patients with Medicare, and denying seniors choices in their health care.
In more than two hours of testimony, Berwick staunchly defended the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, saying repeatedly that the law will control rising medical costs, reduce waste and abuse and provide security to seniors, and expand preventative care that will head off many expensive medical problems and save money.
Under pointed questioning, Berwick was unflappable and sounded enthusiastic, even while frustrating Republicans by refusing to offer a “yes” or “no” answer to many questions.
In one exchange, Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, pressed Berwick repeatedly on Berwick’s past praise for the British health care system.
“Is the British health care system a good model?” Camp asked.
“The American health care system needs an American solution,” Berwick replied.
Camp persisted, asking: Do you still think a government-run single payer system is the best option?
“I believe the Affordable Care Act is the right solution for America,” said Berwick.
“If I could have a simple yes or no answer?” said Camp.
He didn’t get one.
Before President Obama selected Berwick for his current post, Berwick was a professor at Harvard Medical School.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.