With Congress officially on recess, President Obama will on Wednesday use his ability to make recess appointments to name one of his more controversial nominees: Donald Berwick, nominee to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The April nomination of Berwick — president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement — was in trouble and might not have been able to meet Senate confirmation due to comments Berwick made in the past about rationing health care. Even if Berwick could have been confirmed by the Senate, Democrats have little appetite for another round of fighting about changes to the health care system, Democrats said.
In an interview last year with Biotechnology Healthcare, Berwick said society makes decisions about rationing all the time, and that the “decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.”
He has also praised the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which he said had “developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn.”
Yes, and we know what kind of a model the UK’s NHS presents, don’t we?
Said Berwick, “You can say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t even look.’ But that would be irrational. The social budget is limited — we have a limited resource pool. It makes terribly good sense to at least know the price of an added benefit, and at some point we might say nationally, regionally, or locally that we wish we could afford it, but we can’t. We have to be realistic about the knowledge base.”
This anti-private enterprise death panelist is positively frightening. It’s no wonder President Obama feels he has no choice but to appoint him during the Senate recess. It’s also no surprise that he would put a rationing proponent to head the CMS, considering his emphasis during the healthcare debate last year on zeroing in on where the biggest costs to our healthcare system reside: With the elderly and the chronically ill.
Obama could have announced his CMS appointment at any time after winning the election in November 2008 if it were so urgent, but he waited almost a year and a half — until April of this year — to name Berwick. Conveniently, this was after the health care law had already passed. Had he appointed Berwick during the health care debate, it would have exposed how much Obama’s ultimate vision for U.S. health care borrows from the British model.
Even the New York Times writes that, “The recess appointment was somewhat unusual because the Senate is in recess for less than two weeks and senators were still waiting for Dr. Berwick to submit responses to some of their requests for information. No confirmation hearing has been held or scheduled.”
Obama-style “transparency” you can believe in? Right before election time? You betcha.