A few more words are in order about the departure of Dr. Donald Berwick (previously noted on Inkwell) from his position as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
President Obama appointed Berwick to this influential post during a recess. That meant that Berwick avoided confirmation hearings. But the time allotted to a recess appointment was running out and confirmation hearings, which would have provided a televised airing of the doctor’s views, were looming.
Two pieces today suggest the same thing: that the administration is unwilling to permit a hearing because Berwick is on record with controversial positions that underlie Obamacare but about which the administration prefers to be low key.
The New York Times accused Republicans of “caricaturing” Berwick’s positions in Wednesday’s piece announcing his imminent departure. To which Avik Roy, one of our favorite health care bloggers, replies:
If Republicans were “caricaturing” Berwick’s positions, as the New York Times alleged in a Wednesday news piece, why didn’t the president give Berwick an opportunity to express himself more fully? Indeed, Obama’s Senate end-around was clearly designed to prevent an honest debate about the centrally planned approach to health policy, and to spare vulnerable Democrats from having to publicly support Berwick’s philosophy. Indeed, Obama had originally sought to nominate Berwick in early 2009, but chose not to, because he didn’t want to risk adding more controversy to his health-care agenda.
What might Berwick have said in his hearings? Berwick has confessed a “romantic” attachment to the U.K.’s notoriously awful single-payer system of health care. Unfortunately, he seems to dislike the market as much as he likes the National Health Service:
Berwick was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his involvement in Tony Blair’s ill-fated efforts to improve Britain’s National Health Service. It was during this period that the NHS set up its notorious health-care-rationing board, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which routinely stymies the use of life-saving treatments in order to save money. Speaking at the NHS’s 60th anniversary in 2008, Sir Donald extolled the NHS as far superior to the American health-care system, a system veiled by the “darkness of private enterprise.”
Dr. Milton Wolf, a radiologist and distant cousin of President Obama’s, makes similar points in a piece in the Washington Times.
It would have been edifying to have Dr. Berwick’s testimony before the Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Senators might–for example–have had the opportunity to ask him about his statement that “excellent health care is by definition redistributional” and his support for rationing.
But—apparently—the administration thought otherwise.