The Washington Times - September 8, 2011, 02:37PM

President Obama’s health care law is an “expedition,” Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), told reporters Thursday.

“I’ve said this in speeches before: We’re on an expedition of discovery,” Mr. Berwick said. “We didn’t have the answer at the start, so we’re in this discovery mode, and it is a little confusing. I understand that.”

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He acknowledged that, for many Americans, provisions in the expansive new Affordable Care Act can be a bit befuddling. In an poll conducted in August by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 47 percent of uninsured respondents said they did not expect to be affected at all by the health care reform, either positively or negatively.

“As I go around the country and think about what people believe and know about the Affordable Care Act, I see still a challenge to help people really understand what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for them is a ton,” he said.

Mr. Berwick, whose nomination was fiercely challenged by congressional Republicans, will be one of the key early architects implementing Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul plan.

Mr. Berwick spoke about the challenge of reducing health care costs at a morning forum hosted by Health Affairs, an industry journal. As the health care industry moves toward better coordinating care between physicians, hospitals and long-term providers through new “Accountable Care Organizations” (ACO), his agency will have a major role to play, he said.

For example, CMS announced last month that it is testing a new form of Medicare payments through a bundled payment method. And in March, the agency issued a proposed rule that would establish ACOs as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“The value of coordinated care — we need to make that theme an agenda and focus our energies,” Mr. Berwick said.