opinion

What commentators said about CMS' Dr. Berwick

President Obama used a recess appointment to make Donald Berwick, MD, the first permanent administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services since 2006.

Posted July 12, 2010.

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The president decided not to go through the confirmation process, the White House said, because many Republicans "have made it clear" they would try to stall the nomination of Dr. Berwick, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. In the days leading up to the July 7 appointment, Dr. Berwick's views on health system reform, especially his comments on the British National Health Service, played a prominent role in how observers viewed his nomination.

Donald Berwick, a nominee suited to trim the fat on health care

Dr. Berwick is the perfect nominee to help reshape a health care system that is wasteful and bloated. He has a track record of understanding how to wring inefficiencies out of health care systems and improve care in the process. Washington Post, June 29

The efficiency expert health care needs

Only in the topsy-turvy world in which end-of-life counseling services are called "death panels" could a doctor who champions patients' rights and better medical treatment be labeled a threat to health care consumers. Yet that's what Republicans are saying about Dr. Donald Berwick. ... [Dr.] Berwick is well-respected and a good choice for an agency that has gone too long without a leader. His nomination shouldn't be held hostage while the GOP tries to refight old battles over the new health care reform law. Los Angeles Times, June 9

Pat Roberts' hysteria over health care

[U.S. Sen.] Pat Roberts [(R, Kan.)] and company have seized upon passages of the doctor's prolific writings and speeches to falsely portray him as a cold-hearted bean counter who wants to ration care, especially to the elderly. As evidence, they point to flattering remarks [Dr.] Berwick has made about Britain's government-run system. ... But opponents conveniently omit that [Dr.] Berwick has criticized the British system for underperforming. ... [They also] ignore the fact that insurance companies ration care now. And they cynically promote the falsehood that the U.S. can somehow provide a medical system in which everyone can have everything they want, and nobody will have to pay for it. Kansas City Star, June 17

Dangerous to our health

From all accounts, [Dr.] Berwick, a pediatrician, is respected by his peers. He is the founder of the Cambridge [Mass.]-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and an expert on making patient care safer and more efficient. Among his supporters are Bill Frist [MD], a physician and former Senate majority leader, and several previous directors of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But if [Dr.] Berwick's credentials cannot be doubted, neither can his ideological commitment to centralized state power over health care, or his disdain for the ability of markets and competition to improve the quality and lower the cost of medical services. Boston Globe op-ed columnist Jeff Jacoby, June 16

On the front line

[Dr.] Berwick... has a demonstrated ability to enlist hospitals, doctors and other health care professionals in the cause of reforming their practices. ... Dr. Berwick's main potential weakness is a lack of experience in running a very large organization, especially one that will have to operate in a high-charged political environment. New York Times, April 1

O's radical pick for Medicare

Less care is [Dr.] Berwick's vision. In a speech marking the 60th birthday of the British National Health Service, he praised the NHS for deliberately creating scarcity: "You [the NHS] plan the supply; you aim a bit low; historically, you prefer slightly too little of a technology or service to much too much and then you search for care bottlenecks and try to relieve them." ... A fervent ideologue, [Dr.] Berwick puts social engineering ahead of the individual patient's needs. In contrast, most doctors understand that their duty is to heal each patient who comes to them. New York Post op-ed columnist Betsy McCaughey, June 16

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