Not surprisingly, Donald M. Berwick, the former Boston pediatrician who now heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, does not like the concept of Medicaid block grants now being bandied about Washington as part of the 2012 budget.
The President, Donald M. Berwick said, is opposed to them. "That's been made clear and I am too," he told a room full of health care journalists gathered in Philadelphia last week for the Association of Health Care Journalists convention. "It's untested territory."
Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care to one in three Americans, making the programs powerful potential sources of innovation and a major force in the health care arena. Berwick spent a lot of time talking about how, when hospitals, insurers and providers cooperate, dramatic improvements in patient care can be achieved by following already existing protocols. That kind of nationwide borrowing of best practices, he said, can be more easily facilitated in the current design.
On Friday, the House passed a 2012 budget that included the proposal for Medicaid block grants to the state. Next up is a go-round in the Senate. "Will there be block grants?" Berwick asked rhetorically. "I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't think there should be."