Meet Dr. Donald Berwick, President Obama’s wealth-redistributing nominee for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Republicans should defeat his nomination.
Once a sleepy federal backwater, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now has primary responsibility for implementing the federal takeover of the U.S. health-care industry, and Pres. Barack Obama proposes to fill a key position there with Dr. Donald Berwick, who exemplifies the worst aspects of the Democrats’ health-care agenda: denouncing the “darkness of private enterprise,” he celebrates the centralization of power, the redistribution of wealth, and the subordination of health-care professionals to political players. Republicans should defeat his nomination.
Although HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius probably will remain as the public face of administration’s health-care effort, the HHS staffer who may in fact wield the most power in the unfolding implementation drama is the less visible administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As its name implies, CMS is charged with running the nation’s massive public insurance programs — Medicare and Medicaid — which together already cover about 100 million people and cost more than $1 trillion annually. The new health-care law places another 15 million people under the Medicaid umbrella and requires scores of changes in the way Medicare is run. Further, the CMS administrator is the designated point man in the government’s “bend the cost curve” campaign.
It is to this crucial position that the administration has now nominated Dr. Berwick, a Massachusetts physician and an unabashed believer in centralized governmental power over the health sector. He has spoken and written in glowing terms about the British National Health Service (NHS), mainly because the NHS has a command-and-control structure in which the nation’s physicians and hospitals have little choice but to fall in line with the government’s orders. He boasts of the political power and cost control such a system provides, but papers over the deteriorating capital structure, rationing, and widespread quality problems that predictably follow when impersonal bureaucratic structures call all of shots. He affirms that a system for health-care financing “must — must! — redistribute wealth.”
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