Today President Obama named Donald Berwick to the position of head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This is not good news for anyone who relies on either Medicare or Medicaid for their health care.
Dr. Berwick, a Harvard medical school professor, was appointed by Obama to this post in April, but no Senate confirmation hearings had even been scheduled, so the president, as is his right, simply appointed the good doctor while Congress was in its Fourth of July recess.
Limited resources require decisions about who will have access to care and the extent of their coverage.
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 can make a sensible social decision and say, “Well, at this point, to have access to a particular additional benefit [new drug or medical intervention] is so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds.” We make those decisions all the time. The decision is not whether or not we will ration care–the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.
Why were no Senate confirmation hearings even scheduled? My guess…if hearings were held, Dr. Berwick’s radical views about health “care” would become widely know to the American public, 60% of whom (at least according to one poll) want to see Obamacare repealed. Dr. Berwick’s sworn testimony at any such hearing would have driven the repeal Obamacare numbers even higher.
So, between now and the end of this congressional term in January, when Dr. Berwick’s appointment expires, Dr. Berwick will be charged, among other things, with drafting regulations that will reduce the government’s costs for Medicare and Medicaid by $500 billion, as “promised” by Obamacare.
This will not be a pretty picture.
And, don’t fall for “the Republicans were blocking the appointment” argument.
Even Max Baucus [D. Mt.], the Senate Finance Chairman, issued a statement critical of this end-around. President Obama claimed Republicans were stalling the appointment “for political purposes,” but Mr. Baucus hadn’t scheduled hearings and the nomination paperwork wasn’t even finished 11 weeks after he was named.