Donald Berwick recess appointment denies GOP political points

signs urging health care for america now

Donald Berwick was appointed to lead Medicare while Congress is in recess, denying Republicans the chance to use confirmation hearings to whip up the right wing base. Flickr photo.

Donald Berwick was appointed by President Obama to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) Wednesday while Congress is in recess. Berwick’s recess appointment means that politicians have been deprived of an opportunity to weigh in once again on the health care reform bill that passed earlier this year. The administration says the recess appointment of Berwick helps move heath care reform along without Republican obstruction. Republicans say it’s a devious attempt to obscure Berwick’s record. Berwick, a professor at Harvard Medical School is being vilified by Republicans even though he has the support of virtually the entire health care industry.

Donald Berwick to lead Medicare overhaul

Donald Berwick’s recess appointment happened because the White House said the new health care reform law calls for huge changes in Medicare and Medicaid, which insure nearly one-third of all Americans. Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, told the New York Times that the president decided to act because “many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points.”

Berwick backed by Bush appointees

Donald Berwick was nominated in April to lead the CMS. The agency has been without a permanent administrator since October 2006. The Washington Post said Berwick is the ideal choice to oversee a Medicare/Medicaid budget of $800 billion — about one-third of all health-care spending. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on improving health care quality while saving money. Two CMS administrators appointed by George W. Bush back the nomination, as well as the American Hospital Association, the AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and a long list of local medical groups.

Republican obstruction bypassed

Despite his credentials, Republicans want to use Donald Berwick’s nomination to whip up partisan furor over “Obamacare.” The Associated Press reports that Republicans, who use “rationing” as a code word to discredit health care reform, have seized on comments like one Berwick made to an interviewer last year: “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.” Berwick also drew Republican ire for praising Britain’s National Health Service.

Health care rationing revisited

The Post reports that include Pat Roberts of Kansas are trying to twist these statements. “Dr. Berwick is the perfect nominee for a president whose aim has always been to save money by rationing health care,” Mr. Roberts said on the Senate floor last month. The Associated Press article said when it comes to the rationing issue, Republicans argue that  Berwick would deny needed care based on cost. Supporters contend rationing already is done by insurance companies, and Berwick wants transparency and accountability in medical decisions.

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