Berwick: Automatic payment cuts are unnecessary

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick said that President Obama's proposal to empower the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board to impose automatic payment cuts in certain situations would not be necessary, reports Kaiser Health News.

Berwick, as part of an address to the Association of Health Care Journalists' annual conference in Philadelphia, said new efforts in the Medicare program would slow down the future growth rate of the program and even improve its quality of healthcare delivery.

President Obama's proposals include the automatic imposition of spending cuts recommended by the Independent Payment Advisory Board should Medicare spending grow faster than the gross domestic product, plus 0.5 percentage point. Such cuts would require Congressional approval, but the Department of Health and Human Services would ultimately enforce such cuts.

Although Berwick called the proposal "a very wise default system," and added that it was appropriate for Obama to "hold our feet to the fire," Berwick believed that a variety of patient safety and quality initiatives currently being put into place would cut future spending growth.

Berwick also disowned a Republican proposal to refashion Medicare as a voucher program, saying "it is a withdrawal of support from people who badly need our help and who will end up worse off."

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