President Obama’s reported pick to run Medicare and Medicaid, Donald Berwick, has argued for a “radical transfer of power” in the health industry and claimed patients’ quality of care in the U.S. medical system is currently measured by the “color of their skin,” WND has learned.
The Financial Times and other news organizations yesterday quoted an administration official stating Obama intends to nominate Berwick to take the helm of the largest medical payer in the nation – the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The news emerged as the White House announced it had sidestepped Senate confirmations by appointing 15 nominees to administration positions, including a controversial top lawyer for two U.S. labor unions.
Berwick, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, has been widely recognized as one of the most sought-after experts on health-care quality. In 2005, Modern Healthcare, a leading industry publication, named Berwick the third most powerful person in American medicine.
At a 2008 Families USA conference speech documented by Health Beat, a healthcare industry blog, Berwick slammed the U.S. health-care system as “bloated” and “broken.”
The blog points out Berwick noted, “There’s a myth that American healthcare is the best in the world.”
“It’s not,” he continued. “It’s not even close.”
“It’s thought to be the best because we have the most health care,” Berwick stated. However, he said, “40 percent of the care that Americans actually need is not received. … Cost is the barrier.
“Here is a question I often ask my students,” added Berwick. “When you meet a new patient, what is the one test that you could do that would tell you how long that patient is likely to live?
“Typically, students answer: ‘Ask them if they smoke,’ or ‘Test their blood sugar.’
“No,” Berwick said. “Just look at the color of their skin.”
Last year, Berwick authored a Harvard position paper, “What ‘Patient-Centered’ Should Mean: Confessions of an Extremist.” The tome was obtained and reviewed by WND.
“In this paper I argue for a radical transfer of power and a bolder meaning of ‘patient-centered care,’ whether in a medical home or in the current cathedral of care: the hospital,” stated Berwick.
A 2004 extensive Boston Globe profile of Berwick, meanwhile, labeled the physician and activist a health-care “revolutionary” who wants to “blow up” the system:
The deeper Berwick has gotten into the (health-care economic) problem over the last decade, the more radicalized he has become. At this point, mild-mannered, soft- spoken, self-effacing 57-year-old Don Berwick can best be described as a revolutionary. A lot of people say the current health-care system is broken, but by that they mean the manner of financing it. Berwick gets irritated when health-care leaders complain about a lack of resources.
“There’s too much money in the system already,” he says.
His critique takes aim at the medical profession’s exalted view of itself. He’s convinced that the fundamentals of the current system – the same fundamentals Boston used to build its reputation as the world’s medical leader – are so screwed up that it is no longer possible for the medical profession to provide reliable, high-quality care, no matter how many innovations its renowned doctors roll out, no matter how many awards they rack up. “They want to cure cancer,” Berwick says. “Well, how about curing health care?”
His conclusion: To save the health care system, it first needs to be blown up.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott