Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline sent a letter to President Obama last Friday opposing the nomination of Don Berwick for head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because he once praised Great Britain’s National Health Services (NHS). The Republican duo signed the letter along with 56 other conservative Republicans.
“Dr. Berwick has stated that Britain’s National Health Service ‘is not just a national treasure; it’s a global treasure,'” read the letter (pdf). The legislators complained that Berwick wrote a book, Escape Fire, that talked about using “simplified formularies that limit access to medication a patient might need.” They also said that Berwick advocates rationing of health care and denying treatment to senior citizens when it isn’t cost effective.
“For these reasons, we encourage you to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Berwick as CMS administrator,” they concluded.
Berwick is a pediatrician and Harvard professor who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for helping to improve efficiency and modernize the National Health Service in the 1990s. Berwick’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement has six principles: “No Needless Deaths, No Needless Pain or Suffering, No Helplessness in Those Served or Serving, No Unwanted Waiting, No Waste, No One Left Out.” Those principles seem at odds with the concerns laid out in the GOP letter sent to Obama last week.
Opposing Berwick has been an important tactic for Republicans in bringing the health care debate back to the forefront in the upcoming midterm elections.