Time: Obama Avoiding 'Nasty Confirmation Fight' of 'Unabashed' British Health Care Enthusiast Berwick

July 7th, 2010 11:32 AM

Last night the White House announced a recess appointment for a man who's gone on record praising Britain's one-size-fits-all single-payer National Health Service to head up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Covering the development, Time magazine's Adam Sorensen cast the appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick (pictured at right) as a blow to "hyperbolic" Republicans who hoped to make political hay out of the Harvard professor's confirmation hearings, yet Sorensen failed to carry any criticism of the Obama administration for the "unusual" maneuver or to examine how the move might bode poorly for Democrats given the public's concerns over the impact of ObamaCare on the health-care system.

Here's the item in full from Sorensen's July 7 "Morning Must Reads" digest on Time.com's Swampland blog (emphases mine):

Obama plans to use a recess appointment to get Donald Berwick in at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, avoiding what was sure to be a nasty confirmation fight in the Senate. In its spin, the White House makes at least two good points: CMS has been without a permanent chief since 2006 and the Harvard professor is well qualified for the post. But there are a few unusual things about the appointment. Berwick had not finished answering pre-confirmation questionnaires from the Senate, no hearings were yet scheduled and the short July break is not so often used for recess appointments. It looks like the White House made a calculation that Berwick's unabashed admiration of Britain's National Health Service was too tempting a target for hyperbolic Senate Republicans and that his cost-cutting expertise -- precisely the reason they think he's right for the job -- could be used against them politically. Their anxieties are apparent in the title of communications director Dan Pfeiffer's announcement: "Moving Forward to Protect Seniors' Care." Republicans, who were spoiling for a fight over Berwick, are upset.

As reporter Matt Cover of NewsBusters sister site CNSNews.com reported in May, Berwick is terrified of market-oriented policies to reform health care and urged the British in 2008 to resist any attempts to introduce market reforms to the National Health Service's thoroughly socialistic scheme:

Dr. Donald Berwick, nominated by President Barack Obama to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs Medicare, published an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), advising leaders of Britain’s socialized health care system: “Please don’t put your faith in market forces.”
The article, published in the July 26, 2008 issue of the BMJ, compared the U.S. health care system unfavorably to the British system, which Berwick said he was “romantic about.”
The article included a list of 10 suggestions for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). One of these suggestions was:

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces [emphasis in original]. 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 find little evidence that market forces relying on consumers choosing among an array of products, with competitors fighting it out, leads to the healthcare system you want and need. In the U.S., competition is a major reason for our duplicative, supply driven, fragmented care system.” 
Berwick also outlined his 10 suggestions for Britain’s National Health Service at a speech he delivered in Wembley, England, on July 1, 2008. In the speech, Berwick said that the health care choices made by “leaders” will be better than the choices that individuals make for themselves.

Photo of Berwick via the Harvard University School of Public Health website.