Is Donald Berwick the Best Guy to Run Medicare?
Does the name Donald Berwick ring a bell? It might not if you don't regularly watch FOX News or listen to some of the more conservative talk radio personalities.
On his July 8 television show, Glenn Beck referred to him as the "second most dangerous man in America." Erick Erickson, in a post on redstate.com, said, "Donald Berwick openly wants to destroy the American medical system."
I should back up a step here and introduce the guy if you don't already know who he is. Dr. Donald Berwick is a Harvard professor, a pediatrician, and the President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, or IHI. Oh yeah, and on Wednesday, he was appointed as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To give you a larger idea of what Berwick is going to run, Medicare spending in 2010 alone could hit $528 billion. We're talking about slightly more money than Bill Gates finds in change between the cushions of his sofa.
There are a few sticking points that many people, mainly conservatives, have a problem with when it comes to Berwick's new gig. One is the fact that President Obama elevated him to this position by using a "recess appointment," which essentially means he gets the job without ever having to go through Senate hearings or a confirmation. Critics of Berwick's appointment, namely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., have expressed concern because this recess appointment doesn't necessarily allow Americans to vet the good doctor and determine his intentions much like they can with a president's Cabinet or Supreme Court nominees. As Baucus stated in an AP report on Wednesday, "Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power." I couldn't agree more, Senator.
Another little sticking point many people, again mainly conservatives, have with Berwick is his own words. In a 2008 speech before a British audience on the 60th anniversary of Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS), he implied that a just health care system "must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate." This notion might make some feel all warm and toasty and scrumtrulescent (bonus points if you got that reference), but if I spend a career busting my hump to achieve some kind of financial success, the Donald Berwicks of the world have no right just take my money to spend it on the care of others. That choice should be up to me, and me alone. While that might sound a little cold, keep in mind that I say this as someone who can't exactly retire in the next five or 30 years.Continued on the next page