Here Lies Donald Berwick, MD….

It appears that the appointment of Don Berwick, MD as head of CMS has come to an end before it actually started.  The man  with a vision of transforming Medicare into a lean, mean fighting machine, one with quality of care and cost efficiency as its engine.  You can read his bio here, but in short, he has championed more initiatives to improve the quality of care in the United States and likely saved more lives in just a few years than most of us will save in a lifetime.  He championed the “100,000 lives campaign” through the IHI and modified the IOM‘s vision for health care. His dedication to improving health, quality, care and outcomes for all has been applauded by many. So why would a man, with such passion, drive and vision, not be an acceptable candidate, at least in the eyes of our elected political leaders?

In short, he has become the latest casualty in the political battle between Obama, his Democrats and the GOP.  It didn’t help that Obama waited to appoint Berwick during a congressional recess, even though he has every right to do so.  Americans, at the time of the elections last fall, were being bombarded with anti-Obama everything, high unemployment, rising foreclosures, bankruptcies and the thought of higher taxes for “Obamacare”.  Berwick was and is caught up in the wave of negative sentiment towards Obama and supporters.  The Republicans are taking full advantage of this negativism and trying to make good on their threat to repeal the health care bill….completely, as if there are no parts of it worth saving.  An additional aspect of this is their relentless bashing of Berwick and their refusal to consider his appointment before the confirmation hearing had even begun.  Some Democrats have already jumped aboard the bandwagon and, alongside their GP foes, begun asking for additional potential nominees to be named.

At the center of much of the press against Berwick are the comments he made regarding the National Health Service in the UK.  One aspect of their medical program is the concept of rationing and for the Republicans, a key issue they have spun into sentiments most foul.  Although Berwick has declared that he favors evidence based, clinically relevant and successful medical care, he has not stated he favors rationing, with black and white lines between who will and will not receive needed care.

Many in the medical community have expressed their support for Dr. Berwick and their outrage at his treatment in the press at the hands of the Republican naysayers. Among them are Dr. Robert Wachter, health economist Jonathan Gruber and, without an outright endorsement, the AARP. Of course there will always be those who have nothing good to say about anyone or anything.

I have always told my children that the only opinion that matters is one that comes from a reputable source or from someone they trust. Keep that in mind when you see or hear negative comments about Donald Berwick.

Doc B.

My opinion is free.
Advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.


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