Senators Urge Obama to Throw Out Dr. Berwick Nomination

Led by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo) 42 Senators signed off on a letter Thursday encouraging President Obama to withdraw Donald Berwick's nomination to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Republicans would need only 41 votes to prevent his confirmation.

Dr. Berwick came under fire from Republicans last July when Obama installed him during a summer recess, bypassing the usual confirmation process. The Harvard professor, dubbed a "rationer-in-chief" by the opposition, was able to avoid scrutiny until November 16 when he finally appeared before the Senate Finance Committee. His most recent appearance on February 10 prompted Republican Senators to draft a rejection letter explaining their concerns:

Don Berwick is a contentious choice to head an agency with a budget larger than the Defense Department's and implement the vast majority of the $2.6 trillion health law.  The White House's handling of this nomination - failing to respond to repeated requests for information and circumventing the Senate through a recess appointment - has made Dr. Berwick's confirmation next to impossible...In the spirit of cooperation, the President should withdraw his nomination

Both Congress and more than 100 million Americans that will be affected by this partisan health care reform plan need to know who is minding the store at CMS.  But there are just too many questions about what Dr. Berwick and CMS are doing or will do with the unprecedented power they have been given to reshape our health care system.

Withdrawing Dr. Berwick's nomination would be a positive first step in rebuilding the trust of the American people.

As a member of Labour Party Tony Blair's ‘Modernisation Program' board Berwick grew very fond of England's National Health Service (NHS) and praised its system:

Any healthcare funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistributional.

During his latest appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee, Berwick was asked about redistributing resources; the former pediatrician claimed that his views do not emanate from  any ideology but reality: "poorer people tend to be sicker, and sicker people tend to be poorer."

He also downplayed
his romance with Britain's government-run healthcare when asked if it should be emulated here in the States:

There are strengths and weaknesses in every health care system around the world, and we need to learn from each other,..the American system needs its own solution.

The current CMS chief draws praise from the American Medical Association, AARP and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who said "there is no better individual than Dr. Berwick to lead the effort to transform our health care system into one that provides every patient with the best possible care at every interaction."

Berwick wants to "transform" the healthcare system using his "patient-centered care" model. The term sounds unequivocally positive and according to the doctor himself "my principle is that patients should get all of the care they want and need, when and how they want and need it." However, Berwick admits science-based evidence would be secondary to the patient's desires. In a NYT article he states that the physician must see his patient as a "peer" and suggests that "medicine is not nuclear physics...most adults and kids can basically understand."

Besides empowering patients and redistributing resources to level the playing field, the self-avowed "extremist" recommends "accountable care organizations" for Medicare recipients. The groups would discourage "unnecessary hospitalizations" for Medicare patients, directing them to community based medical facilities.

The Senators' letter makes it clear that Berwick will not be able to dodge serious questions about his affinity for England's socialized medicine, nor sidestep a probe of his own non-traditional philosophy.

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