WASHINGTON – When Barack Obama bypassed the Senate yesterday and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick as head of the $800 billion Medicare and Medicaid agency, he chose a man who is outspokenly in favor of government health-care rationing, redistribution of wealth and destroying the U.S. system of medical care in favor of a single-payer government-controlled program.
The recess appointment allows Obama to skip what would have been contentious confirmation hearings because of Berwick’s controversial, self-described “radical” approach to remaking the U.S. health-care system from the ground up.
Republicans had raised questions about Berwick, pointing to his past writings and speeches. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has called him a “known advocate of government rationing of health care.”
Berwick is the founder of a Cambridge, Mass., think-tank and will take over as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The position has been unfilled since 2006 when administrator Mark McClellan stepped down.
The agency provides health services to more than 98 million Americans and is considered the world’s second-largest insurance company after the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, for which he served as a consultant to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
He says he loves the British government-run health-care system and calls it superior to the American model. He opposes consumer-focused solutions to health-care problems as “unaccountable.”
“Any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer to the poorer and the less fortunate,” he said. “Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.”
He has left no doubt about the fact that he favors a “single-payer” system: “With some risk, we note that the simplest way to establish many of these environmental conditions is a single-payer system,” he said in an essay published in Health Affairs in 2008.
As to rationing necessary to sustain a government-run system, Berwick told an interviewer: “We can make a sensible social decision and say, ‘Well, at this point, to have access to a particular additional benefit [new drug or treatment] is so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds. The decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.’”
Roberts, who has led opposition to Berwick in the Senate, characterized this position as a “death pathway.”
When the White House first announced Berwick as its choice, he was hailed for a long list of credentials as a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Medicine.
“He is also a pediatrician, adjunct staff in the Department of Medicine at Boston’s Children’s Hospital …” said the announcement. But, it turns out, Berwick has not seen a patient in years and the two Harvard professor positions are, according to a clarification from the White House, “honorary professorships,” reports the Washington Times.
Berwick would be in charge of implementing many of Obama’s health-care reforms. He 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.
At a 2008 Families USA conference speech documented by Health Beat, a health-care 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 health care 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.
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