Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Politico.com, Kaiser Health News, The Health Care Blog, and other on-line health care news and opinion sources all have lengthy pieces on Republican threats to derail Dr. Donald Berwick’s nomination as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Dr. Berwick’s specific sins, according to the GOP, relate to his work for—and admiration for—Britain’s National Health Service, which gained him an honorary knighthood in 2005.

A l-e-n-g-t-h-y piece in THCB by Maggie Mahar on Dr. Berwick’s nomination is titled “Support for Berwick to Head Medicare Grows,” and emphasizes the apparently almost unanimous support (so far) for Dr. Berwick from medical groups around the country, including the American Hospital Association. This support is obviously vital to the nomination, but it could be swamped in the rapids of political rhetoric.

Given Dr. Berwick’s exemplary career experience, it seems highly unlikely that he will fail to be confirmed. What is certain, however, is that the confirmation hearings—tentatively scheduled for late June, but with the possibility of delay—will serve as an opportunity for opponents of health care reform to revisit the entire reform debate. Dr. Berwick’s hearing will provide a national stage—four months or less before the November election—for concerted attacks on the Democrats’ reform legislation, attacks that Senate Republicans will make every effort to prolong. And that could have a very big impact on reform, as some of its Congressional supporters are defeated and others suddenly discover that they really weren’t as enthusiastic as they said they were back in 2009.

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