Michael Birnbaum interviews Donald Berwick shortly after his departure from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about the national health care landscape. Berwick discusses the strategic vision, policy levers, operational challenges, and political significance of federal health care reform. He rejects the notion that the Affordable Care Act represents a government takeover of health care financing or service delivery but says the law's Medicaid expansion and its creation of health benefit exchanges present a “watershed moment for American federalism.” Berwick argues that the solution to Medicare's cost-containment challenge lies in quality improvement. He is optimistic that accountable care organizations can deliver savings and suggests that shifting risk downstream to providers throws the health insurance model into question. Finally, looking to the future, Berwick sees a race against time to make American health care more affordable.

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