Former Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

"We are facing a reckoning about the relationship between racism and our heritage of that in our country and the health status and well-being of the population"
- Donald Berwick

Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour Interviews Donald Berwick





WHY HIM, WHY NOW? As the former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator under President Obama, he can offer a vision for healthcare reform based on firsthand experience. He can also comment on what type (if any) of long-term change will take place in the U.S. healthcare system in response to the coronavirus crisis. EXPERTISE Management of health care systems, health care policy BACKGROUND He served as President Barack Obama’s Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from July 2010 until December 2011, when he resigned due to Republican opposition to his appointment that resulted in his inability to win a confirmation vote (Obama had given him a temporary recess appointment). He ran for governor of Massachusetts in June 2013 but lost in the Democratic primary (he ran on the platform of instituting single-payer healthcare in Massachusetts). He began his career as a pediatrician at Harvard Community Health Plan in the early 1980s, where he investigated the applicability of quality control measures in industries like aeronautics to health care settings. He left Harvard in 1989 to co-found the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which he served as president and CEO of until his appointment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services role in 2010. Berwick has said his views are shaped by his Jewish upbringing and credits it for his focus on healthcare as a human right, poverty, and justice. He was knighted in 2005 after he created five new care models in the UK’s National Health Service — acute care hospitals, multi-specialty groups, accident emergency rooms, mental health, and nursing homes. He’s also won a dozen awards, but the coolest might be the Purpose Prize in 2007 for “enlisting wide-scale cooperation and scientifically-proven protocols to help hospitals improve care and save more than 100,000 lives.”

MAJOR PUBLICATIONS Coronavirus fight: 3 health care steps Congress must take, starting with Medicaid and ACA,” USA Today, May 2020 Berwick and collaborators write that, in response to the coronavirus crisis, Congress must increase health insurance subsidies, temporarily expand Medicaid coverage for impoverished working-age adults and protect health care providers.

“Errors Today and Errors Tomorrow,” The New England Journal of Medicine, June 2003 Berwick says hospitals need to not only be more diligent about noticing injuries to patients, they must also come up with scientifically valid probable-cause explanations for them.

Berwick was also the lead author of the Berwick Report, which was a landmark report on patient safety in England after the Stafford Hospital scandal. He’s also published more than 160 articles in professional journals on health care policy, decision analysis, and health care quality management. He’s authored or co-authored six books, including Cholesterol, Children, and Heart Disease: an Analysis of Alternatives (1980), Curing Health Care (1990), and New Rules: Regulation, Markets and the Quality of American Health Care (1996).

DEGREES Bachelor’s (B.A.) from Harvard University M.D. from Harvard Medical School M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

PROFILES One Doctor's Crusade For Hospital Reform, CBS Evening News, February 2007 An overview of Berwick’s research on reducing injuries that occur due to care, rather than disease, in hospital settings. This is a career-long area of study for him. ARTICLES ABOUT HIM Former Medicare Administrator: Trump Has Failed In Every Element Of Leadership During The Coronavirus Crisis, WGBH, April 2020 Health Official Takes Parting Shot at ‘Waste," The New York Times, December 2011 RECENT VIDEO INTERVIEWS Donald Berwick: Insights From a US Health Care Reformer,” Nuffield Trust, September 2012