Senate Republicans Will Oppose Pro-Rationing Medicare Nominee Donald Berwick

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Republicans Will Oppose Pro-Rationing Medicare Nominee Donald Berwick

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 23
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — As they were expected to do, Senate Republicans have said they will oppose the nomination of Donald Berwick, the health care rationing advocate President Barack Obama nominated to become the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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).

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said Republicans plan to oppose his nomination and he was not one of the dozens of political appointments the Senate agreed to unanimously on Tuesday.

“He will not get unanimous consent,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, pro-life Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa spoke out in an interview with the New York Times saying Berwick will receive no votes because of his pro-rationing positions.

"It doesn’t help him to say good things about the British healthcare system," Grassley told the Times.

McConnell himself has called Berwick an “expert on rationing" while pro-life Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas calls him “the perfect nominee for a president whose aim has always been to save money by rationing health care.”

As proof, they cite an interview last year in the journal Biotechnology Healthcare, where Berwick said, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”

Attempting to defend the statement, Reid H. Cherlin, a White House spokesman, told the Times: “Rationing is rampant in the system today, as insurers make arbitrary decisions about who can get the care they need. Don Berwick wants to see a system in which those decisions are transparent, and the people who make them are held accountable.”

And 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.”

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. That could result in a heated political battle on health care,a subject that is not helping Obama and his pro-abortion friends in Congress, just months before voters head to the polls in November for what appears to be an upcoming massive pro-life landslide.

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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