Political Groups Pressure Senate to OK Pro-Rationing Medicare Czar Berwick

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 18, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Political Groups Pressure Senate to OK Pro-Rationing Medicare Czar Berwick

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 18, 2010

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A collection of 130 political groups have sent letters to members of the Senate urging them to quickly approve President Barack Obama’s nominee to become the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That selection, Donald Berwick, has been criticized for his pro-rationing views.

The office oversees government health care programs and Berwick is an outspoken admirer of the British National Health Service and its rationing arm, the National Institute for Clinical Effectiveness (NICE).

During a 2008 speech to British physicians, Berwick said “I am romantic about the National Health Service. I love it," and calling it “generous, hopeful, confident, joyous, and just.”

That hasn’t stopped organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics from asking the Senate Finance Committee to move on the nomination that has been pending since April.

According to CQ, Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a pro-abortion Montana Democrat, has said he doesn’t expect a hearing on Berwick until after the Independence Day recess.

The letter, according to CQ, says, "Berwick’s long history as a pediatrician working to advance health care access and coverage for our nation’s children — including decades of experience in academia, as a research professional, as a clinician, and as a policy adviser — make him an ideal candidate to lead CMS."

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association also support Berwick, though the AMA in particular has come under fire for becoming increasingly politicized and supportive of abortion — causing numerous pro-life doctors to let their memberships lapse.

Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote about the problems with Berwick in an opinion column at the Daily Caller in May.

Recalling that opponents of the government-run health care bill were blasted for bringing up "death panels," Tanner writes: "But if President Obama wanted to keep a lid on that particular controversy, he just selected about the worst possible nominee."

In his comments lauding the British health care system, Tanner says "Berwick was referring to a British health care system where 750,000 patients are awaiting admission to NHS hospitals."

" The government’s official target for diagnostic testing was a wait of no more than 18 weeks by 2008. The reality doesn’t come close. The latest estimates suggest that for most specialties, only 30 to 50 percent of patients are treated within 18 weeks. For trauma and orthopedics patients, the figure is only 20 percent," he writes.

"Overall, more than half of British patients wait more than 18 weeks for care. Every year, 50,000 surgeries are canceled because patients become too sick on the waiting list to proceed,’ he continues.

"The one thing the NHS is good at is saving money. After all, it is far cheaper to let the sick die than to provide care," Tanner adds.

NICE is at the forefront of the rationing in the British health care system.

"It acts as a comparative-effectiveness tool for NHS, comparing various treatments and determining whether the benefits the patient receives, such as prolonged life, are cost-efficient for the government," Tanner explains. "NICE, however, is not simply a government agency that helps bureaucrats decide if one treatment is better than another. With the creation of NICE, the U.K. government has effectively put a dollar amount to how much a citizen’s life is worth."

Tanner points out that Berwick has already admitted health care rationing is coming.

“It’s not a question of whether we will ration care,” the Obama nominee said in a magazine interview for Biotechnology Healthcare, “It is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”

Liberal writer Nat Hentoff has also criticized Berwick’s nomination.


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