Early this morning, the White House announced that President Obama would use a recess appointment to install Dr. Don Berwick as Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid. A long-time proponent of healthcare reform and patients’ rights, Dr. Berwick is the ideal candidate to lead CMS in implementing the changes called for in the Affordable Care Act.
Dr. Berwick has been praised throughout the medical community for his extensive work to create a safer and more effective healthcare system. Most recently, he served as President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, where he launched the 5 Million Lives Campaign to reduce preventable mortality. Rich Umdenstock, President and CEO of the American Hospital Association, best described the health industry’s view towards Dr. Berwick in a statement of support to Senator Baucus:
“Dr. Berwick... is a trusted and respected voice among hospitals, as well as within the larger health care community. His knowledge of our health care delivery system, its strengths and weaknesses make him uniquely suited to implement provisions in the recently enacted health care reform law.”
Despite Dr. Berwick’s many qualifications to lead CMS, many opponents of health reform remain obstinately opposed to his appointment. Senator Barrasso (R-WY) stated that Dr. Berwick is a “self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won’t even have to explain his views to the American people in a hearing.” However, the President was driven to use a recess appointment because of lawmakers like the Wyoming senator, who saw Dr. Berwick’s nomination as an excuse to reignite the debate over healthcare reform. Even Tom Scully, who served as CMS Administrator from 2001 to 2003, noted that Berwick is “universally regarded and a thoughtful guy who is not partisan. I think it’s more about the health care bill. You could nominate Gandhi to be head of CMS and that would be controversial now.”
Hopefully, this appointment will force politicians to lay their partisan beliefs aside and allow Dr. Berwick and the CMS to bring about the change our healthcare system so desperately needs. As White House blogger Dan Pfieffer put it, “there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing.”