Friday, December 17, 2010

This Morning’s Berwick Hearing By the Numbers

This morning’s Finance Committee hearing featuring testimony by CMS Administrator Donald Berwick adjourned almost as quickly as it began due to a series of votes on the Senate floor.  It’s worth noting that this morning’s vote series was already scheduled at the time the hearing was announced last week – meaning the scheduling conflict was easily preventable, had the majority chosen another time for the hearing.  Here’s a quick look at how the hearing shaped up:

10:03 – Time hearing began

10:27 – Time questioning began

11:23 – Time hearing adjourned

56 – Total minutes for questioning

4 – Number of Republican Senators able to question Dr. Berwick (Grassley, Hatch, Bunning, and Ensign)

Compare these numbers to the universe of material about which Senators may wish to query Dr. Berwick:

2,700 – Pages in the health care law (including reconciliation legislation and Indian Health Service provisions)

4,103 – Pages of regulations implementing the health care law released between March 23 and September 23

Thousands – Pages of Dr. Berwick’s controversial speeches, journal articles, and other writings over the past 30-plus years

Given the plethora of potential questions and the modicum of time Senators had to ask them, there’s one other key number to keep in mind:

November 29 – Date the Senate returns from Thanksgiving break

Will Chairman Baucus call a follow-up hearing to give all Senators a fair opportunity to ask questions – and if so, when?  As Dr. Berwick himself would say, “‘Some’ is not a number, ‘soon’ is not a time…”