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Crapo: Empty Chair Says It All About Health Care

Six months into health care reform and the head of Medicare still silent

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo says the absence of the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from a Finance Committee meeting in Washington is yet another example of a lack of transparency into what health care reform is doing to the nation's health care system. Crapo noted that Dr. Donald Berwick has been asked repeatedly by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to appear before the Committee and answer questions about cost increases and coverage issues related to the new reform plan.

"Dr. Berwick presides over a federal budget that is larger than the Pentagon," Crapo said. "Yet, it has been six months since the President signed the health care bill and the head of Medicare has never responded to our repeated requests to answer questions about reforms in the plan."

Even though Berwick did not attend the meeting, one person who did was Dr. Michael Smith, a practicing physician with 22 years of experience. Dr. Smith noted the health reform plan will do "irreparable harm to America's health care system and jeopardize the health and safety of our citizenry." He said he wanted to "convey the fear and frustrations thousands of doctors have about the President's Health Care Reform Legislation." Berwick was not present to address or refute Smith's charges.

Crapo noted that 22 states, including Idaho, have filed legal action to block all or part of the law from taking effect. Just this week, three private insurance companies dropped their children-only coverage policies.