Happy Birthday, Dr. Berwick!

Patricia Salber

First posted 9/14/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

Dr. Don Berwick, head of CMS, just turned 65.  He has already turned in his paperwork to get his Medicare coverage.  This is fantastic.  The head of CMS will now receive benefits from the health insurance program that he oversees.

Of course, he is still working, so he still has his employer-sponsored benefits.  But an article on NPR.org indicates he may only sign up for Part A (hospital coverage) to supplement his existing health plan.  Because he doesn’t need to sign up for Part B (doctors and other non-hospital services) yet, he won’t have to worry about paying a means-tested monthly premium.

A few years ago, I was a Sr. Medical Director for a health plan providing coverage to a very large employer group.  My job was to work with the plan and the employer group to help manage quality and cost of the care.  The employer group only offered HMO coverage to their beneficiaries…so I decided I should have the same so that I could experience what the beneficiaries were experiencing.  It was an eye-opener.  First of all, I had a hard time finding a primary care physician that was willing to accept my HMO plan.   I finally prevailed on a friend to accept me into her practice.  Next, I saw, first hand, some of the other hassles facing HMO members at that time .  I learned a lot by being my health plan’s customer – and I think it helped me to better serve the employer group.

Hopefully, Dr. Berwick will have a similar learning experience now that he is a Medicare beneficiary.  There is nothing like being a customer of your own “product” to help you appreciate areas in which you really could do better.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Berwick.  I am glad you are 65.

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