We should beware of new health care czar

Letter to the Editor
Published: 7/17/2010 12:00 AM

All Daily Herald readers, seniors or not, must become acquainted with Donald Berwick, the health-care rationing czar whose recess appointment on Tuesday, June 8, elevated him to head of the federal Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs. The center for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) is America's primary health care agency. Providing health services to more than 98 million Americans with a budget of about $800 billion, CMS is considered the world's second-largest insurance company after the British Health Care System (BHS).

Seniors should not be the only ones really frightened, parents with special needs children should also be up in arms over Berwick's recess appointment.

Just who is Dr. Donald Berwick, what are his qualifications, and why is he being called the new health-care "rationing czar?"

Although Dr. Berwick is a pediatrician, he has not seen a patient in years. Further, the two Harvard professorial positions attributed to Berwick are but honorary professorships.

A defender of Britain's health care rationing system and single-payer health care, Dr. Berwick served as a consultant to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Britain's system uses an end-of-life pathway to death, which many British doctors say leads to premature death. Dr. Berwick has said that "most people who have serious pain do not need advanced methods, they just need the morphine and counseling that have been around for centuries."

If this isn't scary enough, Dr. Berwick opposes consumer-focused solutions to health care problems, believing that for health care funding to be "just, equitable, civilized and humane it must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs informed the White House press on Wednesday, June 9, that "President Obama is not going to allow the viewpoint of a few to hold up the appointment." But why a recess appointment at this time when recesses no longer last for months? The present Congressional recess is only two weeks long.

Upon further examination, Medicare has been without an administrator since 2006. It was not until April of this year that President Obama nominated Dr. Berwick to the CMS position. In that Berwick has not returned Senators' written questionnaires, nor will he have to go through the normal confirmation process which would replay the acrimonious health care debate on the Senate floor, Dr. Berwick's confessed love affair with the British Health Care System will remain under the radar for senior citizens and other Americans.

Most frightening is that Dr. Donald Berwick, in his recess appointment, will serve until the end of 2011 with views that are consistent with the Obama administration policy. This makes a mockery of Obama's promise of transparency.

Let your representatives in Springfield and senators Durban and Burris know what you think and how the wool is not being pulled over your eyes. Remind them that the November elections are just around the corner.

Nancy J. Thorner

Lake Bluff