Donald Berwick is no household name, but President Obama just handed him immense power to shape what kind of health care will be available to every American man, woman and child.
Berwick is the president’s newly appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that is ground zero for Obamacare’s politicization of American medicine. Obama installed Berwick with a recess appointment, a rarely exercised authority given to the president by the Constitution to use when the Senate is out of session for long periods. Berwick will have the job until the end of 2011. He assumes his duties without a Senate confirmation hearing or a Senate vote on his nomination.
Here’s another name few Americans are likely to recognize: Linda O’Boyle. According to the London Sunday Times, O’Boyle died in 2008 after British National Health Service officials cut off her “free” treatment by government doctors. Her sin was that she used her life savings to pay for an unapproved cancer drug earlier in the year. Her doctors had told her the drug, cetuximab, was markedly more effective in combating bowel cancer than the NHS-approved chemotherapy. Unfortunately, cetuximab was rejected by NHS officials as “not cost-effective.” O’Boyle, an NHS occupational therapist, was dead within a few months, a victim of rationed health care. She was also one of the tragic human beings behind a statistic Obama and Berwick likely hope you never hear about: Britain’s cancer survival rate ranges between 40.2 percent and 48.1 percent for men and between 48 percent with 54.1 percent for women, compared with 66 percent for U.S. men and 63 percent for U.S. women.
Now consider this quote from Berwick: “Cynics beware, I am romantic about the National Health Service, I love it.” Here’s another Berwick quote: “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” It is bad enough that Obama would nominate an individual who holds such views to head Medicare and Medicaid. To install him under a recess appointment with no Senate hearing and no Senate confirmation vote is an arbitrary act of an imperial presidency so outrageous as to embarrass even Richard Nixon. Since Berwick can only occupy the position for approximately 17 months, the question inevitably arises: What does Obama want Berwick to do that is so important that it justifies circumventing the Senate’s constitutional duty to advise and consent on presidential appointments?