President Obama yesterday appointed Dr. Don Berwick as the new Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Read the Globe article here.
The president accomplished this through the use of a recess appointment, which is an appointment that takes place while Congress is on recess and therefore does not require Congressional approval until a later date (in this case, in late 2011).
President Obama announced his nomination of Dr. Berwick some time ago but no confirmation hearings had been scheduled. There was much speculation that the hearings would be used by those opposed to health reform to bash the new law, and there had already been statements from opponents that Dr. Berwick would seek to ration health care in order to save money.
These broad statements sought to boil down into bite-size segments the very lengthy record of exemplary work in patient safety and quality improvement that Dr. Berwick and the organization he leads, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, have accumulated. These broad statements also ignore the fact that there is already rationing of health care in the U.S., based on income and access to high-quality care, and the obvious fact that the U.S. has to look at ways to save money in health care, which should include looking at ways to reduce overuse of care (which some may call rationing but others would call rational and patient-centered), before health care spending eats up ever larger portions of the nation’s spending.
Dr. Berwick is a creative and forward-thinking health care leader whose leadership arrives at CMS at just the right time-as health care reform is being implemented.
Congratulations to Dr. Berwick! We look forward to many exciting changes under his capable leadership.