NRL News

Rationing Proponent Donald Berwick Announces Resignation

by | Nov 24, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Donald Berwick, right, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Just weeks before he would have been forced to leave his post, Donald Berwick, the symbol for much of what opponents feared most about ObamaCare, announced his resignation as the top administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

After running into enormous resistance President Obama made Berwick, a Harvard professor, a recess appointment, fully aware that Republicans were solidly against a man whose infatuation with the British health system and rationing made him anathema. And since Berwick was never confirmed, his temporary appointment would have expired December 31.

Berwick’s replacement will be his principal deputy, Marilyn Tavenner, formerly Virginia’s top health care official under pro-abortion former Gov. Tim Kaine.  The White House said Obama will submit Tavenner’s nomination to the Senate.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the Senate must “thoroughly examine” and “carefully scrutinize” Tavenner’s nomination, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this year, 42 GOP senators wrote Obama asking him to withdraw Berwick’s nomination. Having remained as a temporary appointee, Berwick’s resignation takes effect December 2.

Berwick is immensely popular with the press. A typical profile is of a brilliant innovator who walked unknowingly into a political whirlwind, the accidental victim of the carryover from the ferocious fight over ObamaCare.

For example one Washington Post account made a passing reference to one reason there was/is so much opposition: “A pioneer in improving medical quality, but a neophyte in Washington politics, Berwick ran into a buzz saw of Republican opposition over old academic writings when President Obama chose him for the task 16 months ago.”

“Old academic writings,” as in they don’t really count. But the fact is, Berwick did not repudiate the very statements he made that made him the focal point of opposition, including by National Right to Life.

For example, “Republicans focused, for instance, on academic writings in which Berwick had praised aspects of the British National Health Service; Republicans said his views were tantamount to support for rationing and socialized medicine,” the Post’s Amy Goldstein wrote.

‘The controversy, Berwick said, caught him by surprise. But in retrospect, he said, ‘I wouldn’t take a word back. . . . My general reaction has been almost as if these people are talking about somebody else.’” He then proceeds to deny up and down that he supports rationing, which of course his writings clearly show he does.

To take just one of many examples, in an article in the May/June 2008 issue of Health Affairs, he called for “rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest” so as to “reduce per capita costs.” Lamenting that “[t]oday’s individual health care processes are designed to respond to the acute needs of individual patients,” Berwick wrote that instead government should “approach new technologies and capital investments with skepticism and require that a strong burden of proof of value lie with the proponent.”

The Post story ended with a perfect illustration of the condescension with which Berwick addresses those who disagree with him, including the 42 GOP senators. Berwick approaches the discord with a certain detachment,” Goldstein writes.

“’This will sound a little weird,’ he said, ‘but when you are a pediatrician or a father, you always are saying, what is this kid’s strength. . . . Even the people that disagree the most, they bring something to the table.’”

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