Health Care Expert But Political Novice: Berwick Runs For Governor

donald berwick

Pediatrician and health policy guru Dr. Donald Berwick officially announced his candidacy for governor of Massachusetts on Monday.

The former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the Obama Administration, Berwick is an expert on cost and quality in health care, issues that are in the national spotlight as the federal health care law best known as Obamacare begins to come into effect.

WBUR’s Bob Oakes spoke with Berwick on today’s Morning Edition. Berwick offered this insight on how he would use his expertise in this area to bolster health care in the state as governor:

Massachusetts is being looked to by everyone around the country for success in its own health care reform. It’s very important  to have a governor who knows how to get us to health care reform in the state. We haven’t completed the job yet.

I’m really proud to be in Massachusetts, it’s the first state in the union that’s made health care a human right. But in order to make that sustainable we’re going to have to reform health care to make it more continuous, more responsive to patients, safer. A health care system that’s better will be more affordable, and that’s going to involve change. We need hospitals, and health care overall, to really become seamless and coordinate it. Those are big changes and as governor, I would guide and insist upon those changes throughout the health care system.

Berwick spoke specifically to the issue of the perverse incentives that dominate the business models of many hospitals:

We’re coming from a health care system that’s been addicted to volumes — the more you do, the more you make. And that’s not good for patients. Patients need care that’s responsive to them, that keeps them home. We need hospitals that want to be empty, not full, and that’s a big change.

Berwick has an unequivocally strong background in healthcare, but he’s never held elected office.  Does his expertise in health qualify him to lead this state?  On the issue of his political inexperience, he had this to say:

I’ve worked with government and policy for 30 years throughout my whole career. In Washington, President Obama asked me to run the largest agency in government — $820 billion with 500,500 employees. I had a marvelous experience. I believe in government, I believe in effective government, and I think I’ve got the skills and the tools to make Massachusetts the example that this country needs.

For Berwick’s perspective on taxation, the economy and more, check out the full interview on WBUR.org here.

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