Category Archive 'Donald Berwick'

26 Dec 2010

Advising the Elderly to Die Restored to Obamacare Via Regulation

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Urging grandma to give up on expensive treatments and climb quietly out onto the icefloe will be funded by Medicare as the result of new regulations issued by former Harvard professor and self-proclaimed Marxist Donald Berwick.

The obvious conflict of interest involved in the same government footing the bill under a socialist health system operating a system of “end of life planning,” incentivizing physicians to encourage patients to forgo treatment and medications, was identified by Republicans, particularly Sarah Palin, and subsequent public outrage led to what became widely referred to as “death panels” being removed from the actual Obamacare bill passed by Congress.

Dr. Berwick, in fact, very much resembles death panels himself, being similarly too radical to get through the Senate, and having become Medicare Czar and Federal Health Care Rationer-in-Chief via a recess appointment.

Thus, Barack Obama demonstrates how democracy and the Constitution can be exponentially evaded. What cannot possibly be achieved through legislation can simply be decreed as a regulation by an unconfirmable recess-appointee Czar.

New York Times:

When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.

Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. …

The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.

Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.

While the new law does not mention advance care planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress. …

Several Democratic members of Congress, led by Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, had urged the administration to cover end-of-life planning as a service offered under the Medicare wellness benefit. A national organization of hospice care providers made the same recommendation.

Mr. Blumenauer, the author of the original end-of-life proposal, praised the rule as “a step in the right direction.” …

After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated “a quiet victory,” but urged supporters not to crow about it.

“While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. “This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.”

Moreover, the e-mail said: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.” …

The proposal for Medicare coverage of advance care planning was omitted from the final health care bill because of the uproar over unsubstantiated claims that it would encourage euthanasia.

Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, and Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, led the criticism in the summer of 2009. Ms. Palin said “Obama’s death panel” would decide who was worthy of health care. Mr. Boehner, who is in line to become speaker, said, “This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.” Forced onto the defensive, Mr. Obama said that nothing in the bill would “pull the plug on grandma.” …

The rule was issued by Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a longtime advocate for better end-of-life care.

20 Jul 2010

Death Panel Chief Berwick To Go Before the Senate

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Barack Obama reversed course and put Donald Berwick up for Senate confirmation after all today, after having had him sworn in as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid via a recess appointment.

When asked why, an Administration spokesman told reporters, it was just a formality. They aren’t fooling anyone. This is a clear signal that the White House believes that they are going to lose the Senate in November and the best possible chance of confirmation is right now.

15 Jul 2010

“Worse Than Kagan”

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Daniel Henniger, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that Obama’s appointment of Daniel Berwick, aptly headlined by Gregory as: Obama Appoints Marxist to Lead Death Panel, is decidedly worse than the Kagan appointment.

Barack Obama’s incredible “recess appointment” of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is probably the most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation. It is more important to the direction of the country than Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The court’s decisions are subject to the tempering influence of nine competing minds. Dr. Berwick would direct an agency that has a budget bigger than the Pentagon. Decisions by the CMS shape American medicine.

Dr. Berwick’s ideas on the design and purpose of the U.S. system of medicine aren’t merely about “change.” They would be revolutionary.

One may agree with these views or not, but for the president to tell the American people they have to simply accept this through anything so flaccid as a recess appointment is beyond outrageous. It isn’t acceptable. …

These excerpts are from past speeches and articles by Dr. Berwick:

“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.”

“You cap your health care budget, and you make the political and economic choices you need to make to keep affordability within reach.”

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces. It’s a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can.”

“Indeed, the Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs.”

“It may therefore be necessary to set a legislative target for the growth of spending at 1.5 percentage points below currently projected increases and to grant the federal government the authority to reduce updates in Medicare fees if the target is exceeded.”

“About 8% of GDP is plenty for ‘best known’ care.”

“A progressive policy regime will control and rationalize financing—control supply.”

“The unaided human mind, and the acts of the individual, cannot assure excellence. Health care is a system, and its performance is a systemic property.”

“Health care is a common good—single payer, speaking and buying for the common good.”

“And it’s important also to make health a human right because the main health determinants are not health care but sanitation, nutrition, housing, social justice, employment, and the like.” …

“Young doctors and nurses should emerge from training understanding the values of standardization and the risks of too great an emphasis on individual autonomy.”

Previous Berwick posting.

13 May 2010

Obama’s Marxist Rationer-in-Chief

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His Wikipedia bio describes him as a “marxist.” He is a Harvard professor and a technocrat with his own health care think tank. Naturally, Donald Berwick believes in central planning by experts like himself, and Barack Obama has nominated him for a post which will effectively give him the ability to impose a regime of treatments and protocols prescribed by a committee on every doctor and hospital in the United States. The new regime, of course, will have to be designed to supply services for free on a universal basis, so rationing and cost control will inevitably play a very key role in all the planning, but that’s just fine, Dr. Berwick tells us in the video below: “Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.”

Philip Klein, in the American Spectator, has details.

Obama’s choice to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Donald Berwick, [is] a Harvard professor with a self-professed love affair with Britain’s socialized health care system. In his writings and speeches, Berwick has defended government rationing and advocated centralized budget caps on health care spending.

“Cynics beware, I am romantic about the (British) National Health Service; I love it,” Berwick said in a July 2008 speech at England’s Wembley stadium. “All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.”

While Berwick would not have the authority to impose a British health care system on the United States in one fell swoop, as head of CMS, he would be running both Medicare and Medicaid. Given that the two programs alone account for more than one out of every three dollars spent on health care in America (all government programs combined account for 47 percent), private players tend to follow CMS’s lead. Berwick himself has made this point.

“(G)overnment is an extraordinarily important player in the American health care scene, and it has inescapable duties with respect to improvement of care, or we’re not going to get improved care,” he said in a January 2005 interview with Health Affairs. “Government remains a major purchaser.… So as CMS goes and as Medicaid goes, so goes the system.”

There are two basic visions for how to contain the growth of health care spending. The free market approach would give individuals control over their health care dollars, with the idea that it would encourage more shopping that will drive down costs and increase quality as has happened in every other aspect of the consumer-based economy. But the other approach, employed by nations such as Britain, is to have the government ration care to meet a global budget.

President Obama rejected the market-based approach, and sought to drastically expand insurance coverage while reducing health care costs. But according to a report by CMS’s chief actuary, the new law will actually increase health care costs. That leaves rationing of care based on a bureaucratic notion of the common good as the remaining option for containing skyrocketing spending, and it’s an outcome that Berwick himself once predicted would be necessary to achieve universal coverage.

“(T)he Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs,” Berwick wrote in an article for Health Affairs he co-authored in 2008.

He went on to write that, “The hallmarks of proper financial management in a system… are government policies, purchasing contracts, or market mechanisms that lead to a cap on total spending, with strictly limited year-on-year growth targets.”

On a number of occasions, Berwick has praised Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), a body of experts that advises the government-run health care system on how to allocate medical spending based on cost-benefit analysis. Among other decisions, they have ruled against the use of cancer-treating drugs and put a dollar value on the final six months of human life.

“NICE is extremely effective and a conscientious, valuable, and — importantly — knowledge-building system,” Berwick said in an interview last June in Biotechnology Healthcare. “The fact that it’s a bogeyman in this country is a political fact, not a technical one.”

The national health care law that President Obama signed in March will greatly expand the role of CMS by adding an estimated 15 million beneficiaries to Medicaid. In addition, the law contains a number of initiatives, to be spearheaded by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the head of CMS, to provide incentive-based pay to doctors and hospitals based on performance. This builds on the comparative effectiveness research provision of last year’s economic stimulus package. While none of these measures will have the same sway as NICE does in Britain, taken together, they will move America in a NICE-like direction, especially with Berwick at the helm.

2:15 video
“Any health care funding plan that is just equitable civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.” – Donald Berwick


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