BERWICK BITES THE DUST?

It sounds too good to be true, but that seems to be what’s in wind. According to Politico, Senate Democrats are about to throw in the towel on Obama’s recess-appointed CMS administrator:

Senate Democrats have given up on confirming Don Berwick as CMS administrator … a person familiar with the situation said Senate Democrats and the White House “can do the arithmetic” and now see that there’s no way for Berwick to get the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.

I hesitate to celebrate just yet. The White House and the Dems are pretty good at finding ways of ignoring the voters and their elected representatives. But hope springs eternal:

At a meeting with health care lobbyists Friday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee staffers indicated that the nomination is dead, that there will be no confirmation hearing, and that they’ll soon be discussing “next steps” for CMS, sources said.

Just keep your fingers crossed. Berwick is a big believer in Soviet-style central control, and if he remains at CMS or even as an advisor to the White House, that is VERY bad news.

UPDATE:

It would appear from a couple of comments below that there are still people who don’t quite grasp the meaning of Donald Berwick’s writings and speeches. So, let’s take a look at his own words about individual choice versus top-down management:

I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do.

These are the words of a Soviet-style apparatchik who believes that a cadre of “leaders” (i.e. government bureaucrats) sitting in a room at CMS can drive the gigantic and, as he himself puts it, complex machine that is U.S. health care.

Berwick is OBVIOUSLY an advocate of command and control, centrally planned systems.

Comments 5

  1. nyp wrote:

    Funny – I’ve never once heard Donald Berwick say that he was a “big believer in Soviet-style central control.”
    Not once.

    Posted 05 Mar 2011 at 1:29 pm
  2. Catron wrote:

    There is obviously a lot that you’ve “never heard” about health reform in general, and Berwick in particular.

    However, no (objective) person can read his many writings about “cost control” and “efficiency” and avoid the conclusion that he’s an old-fashioned central planning advocate.

    Posted 05 Mar 2011 at 1:30 pm
  3. nyp wrote:

    Here, in context, are Dr. Berwick’s actual remarks:

    “It’s a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can. I do not agree. I find little evidence anywhere that market forces, bluntly used, that is, consumer choice among an array of products with competitors’ fighting it out, leads to the health care system you want and need. In the US, competition has become toxic; it is a major reason for our duplicative, supply-driven, fragmented care system. Trust transparency; trust the wisdom of the informed public; but, do not trust market forces to give you the system you need. I favor total transparency, strong managerial skills, and accountability for improvement. I favor expanding choices. But, I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do”

    I agree with that. I guess the idea that I accept Kenneth Arrow’s famous analysis of the factors that differentiate the health care market from the classic model of perfectly efficient self-clearing markets makes me a Bolshie like Dr. Berwidk.

    Posted 06 Mar 2011 at 7:33 am
  4. Catron wrote:

    I accept Kenneth Arrow’s famous analysis of the factors that differentiate the health care market from the classic model of perfectly efficient self-clearing markets …

    Having been unable to counter the original point of the post (that Berwick is an advocate of central government planning), you now want to change the subject to the tired “health care is special? meme.

    That you trundle out that hoary talking point confirms (1) the accuracy of last year’s survey showing that progressives tend to be illiterate in economics and (2) that you have surrendered on your initial claim about Berwick.

    Posted 06 Mar 2011 at 9:31 am
  5. Keith Marton wrote:

    I’ve known Don Berwick (as a colleague) for over 20 years and have read much of his work. More importantly, I’ve watched, and in some cases participated, in his work. To attribute “Soviet style Central control” to him is to pull that concept our of thin air–or maybe some part of your anatomy.
    Maybe he wasn’t meant to be part of the rough and tumble of Washington politics. Fortunately for American health care, I know he’ll continue to have a positive impact on what we physicians do after he leaves CMS.

    Posted 06 Mar 2011 at 10:33 am

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