Hey Mr. Berwick, About those death panels…
OK, to review. Donald Berwick is the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. His budget larger than the Pentagon’s. He’s the guy who basically decides, down to the last little detail, how Medicare and Medicaid operate. He is a Presidential appointee who is subject to the advice and consent of the US Senate. When he was initially proposed by the Obama Administration last year, there was some swirling controversy about his views on public health. For instance, he is a proponent of the UK’s National Health Service, and based on the reports flooding out of England, he may be the only one left. From an article about Berwick on UPI…
In that 2008 speech in London marking the NHS’s 60th anniversary, Berwick praised the British system as “one of the truly astounding human endeavors of modern times. Just look at what you are trying to be: comprehensive, equitable, available to all, free at the point of care, and — more and more — aiming for excellence by world-class standards.”
In addition to the questionable efficacy of that comment, Berwick is an open proponent of the rationing of care by the government. From a CBS article right after his recess appointment earlier this year…
Berwick — a pediatrician, Harvard University professor and leader of a health care nonprofit organization — told an interviewer last year, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.”
Democrats, the same ones who have given us ObamaCare$trade;, applauded Berwick. Republicans, not so much. In fact, even though the Democrats held a 59/41 edge in the US Senate, President Obama didn’t have the courage to formally nominate him and submit his name for consideration by the Senate. He made a recess appointment earlier this year so Berwick wouldn’t have to face questioning about his socialist views on health care, on rationing (death panels) and on little things like who paid his salary at his last gig. A standard profile in courage we’ve come to expect from this President.
As an aside, just to blunt criticism that “Hey GWB made recess appointments too…” Yes he did. But only after the nominees had been reviewed by a Senate panel and were being held up from a floor vote. Berwick never set foot in a Senate hearing room. Until this week. And the Senate committee managed to miss this little tidbit…
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which dictate what treatments the massive federal health-insurance program for the elderly will cover, is running a “national coverage analysis” of Provenge, the first vaccine approved for treating any cancer. The treatment costs $93,000 a patient and has been shown to extend patients’ lives by about four months.
Although Medicare is not supposed to take cost into consideration when making such rulings, the decision to launch a formal examination has raised concerns among cancer experts, drug companies, lawmakers, prostate cancer patients and advocacy groups.
Provenge, which was approved for advanced prostate cancer in April, is the latest in a series of new high-priced cancer treatments that appear to eke out only a few more months of life, prompting alarm about their cost.
“This absolutely is the opening salvo in the drive to save money in the health-care system,” said Skip Lockwood, who heads Zero – the Project to End Prostate Cancer, a Washington-based lobbying group. “If the cost wasn’t a consideration, this wouldn’t even be under discussion.”
Medicare officials, who are convening a panel of outside advisers to vet the issue at a public hearing … say Provenge’s price tag isn’t an issue. But Berwick and other officials declined to discuss the rationale for the review.
Color me shocked.