. . .unfortunate for health reform
Forty-two Senate Republicans informed the White House that they oppose the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick to head CMS, the key agency managing and, in this urgent time, reforming Medicaid and Medicare, reports Politico. Although earlier Senate intransigence about calling hearings for Pres. Obama's nominees initially blocked Dr. Berwick, an interim appointment appropriately installed him. His name was resubmitted for consideration.
For some, his name is synonymous with improvements in health systems that has saved money and lives. The White House insists it has not given up.
It is hard to believe this is not one of the strategies Republicans will use to roll back health reform.
It is hard to understand how anybody wanting serious reform can reject, without even the formality of a hearing, a candidate with his track record. Unless, of course, track records are less important than ideology. In this instance, Berwick is reportedly being held accountable for a favorable comment about the British health system, one that created a national health service in the 1940s to provide single-payer services.
When the United States has fallen on all measurable indicators of quality of life based on health outcomes, it is hard to understand what is behind such political conceit. It is yet another example of how logic and data have been hostage to politics, how pragmatism can be upended by ideology.
The work of Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI), which Berwick founded, has become an engine driving the medical community to examine where it falls short of delivering quality care. It has consistently found ways to address problems in a system that is bloated, inefficient, and far behind the quality of life indicators found elsewhere.
The United States no longer competes in areas once taken for granted. Five countries, led by Japan and Canada, with universal health systems, stand ahead of the United States in life expectancy. In the area of infant mortality and childhood health, the United States has consistently declined, falling from 12th in 1960 to 30th in 2005. We were last of 21 countries in preterm births (less than 37 weeks). And for treating chronic illness, a report from the Commonwealth Fund indicates: "U.S. patients were more likely than patients in all five comparison countries to report that they went to the emergency room for conditions that could have been treated by a regular doctor." The five other countries were Australia, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand.
Ill-conceived political motivation is blocking the nomination of Donald Berwick. At the very least, this is unfortunate for the health of the nation.