The Case Against (and for) Donald Berwick

Margaret Dick, for HealthLeaders Media , March 16, 2011
Berwick Said What?

Throughout his lengthy career Berwick has made a lot of comments and some of them are coming back to haunt him. According to his critics, Berwick is a radical proponent of healthcare rationing, so-called “death panels” and the British system of healthcare.

  • Why he should stay: Healthcare is too important to allow the level of discourse to fall so low.
  •  Why he should go: In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, Berwick makes great theater. The soundbite rules so his speeches and writings are mined for controversy. Yes, the statements are often used out of context but as long as Berwick remains the nominee it will be hard for the healthcare reform debate to move beyond emotion-laden words like “rationing” and “death panels.”

Berwick's Qualifications

Don Berwick is a Harvard-educated pediatrician who has spent much of his career as a policy analyst. HealthLeaders Media wrote about him last year: "Berwick's record as a healthcare shepherd is unassailable. Through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement he founded, Berwick and his team cleverly hooked into the healthcare industry's untapped desire to improve with catchy, actionable programs like the 100,000 Lives Campaign. His critics worry that at CMS, what Berwick envisions would be less like feel-good voluntary programs and more toward British-style universal care of which he has spoken fondly."

  • Why he should stay: His specialty is examining how a healthcare system can improve patient care while holding down costs. That is exactly what everyone says should happen.
  • Why he should go: One ongoing criticism of Berwick is that he lacks experience in management and with health plans.


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7 comments on "The Case Against (and for) Donald Berwick"

Obamacare rationing (11/28/2011 at 1:09 PM)
"Berwick's record as a healthcare shepherd is unassailable." Should read: "Berwick's record as a healthcare shepherd fleecing the flock with his ideals about rationing is unassailable."

sheryl.oconnor (3/21/2011 at 5:10 PM)
Don Berwick, MD is who we need at the top of the CMS food chain. If I could vote, he would have mine hands down. He is an innovator who has done so much for quality in healthcare. Not voting him in would be a travesty and I would hope that President Obama would work this across the aisle with the Republicans. We will all lose if Congress doesn't vote Dr. Berwick into this position.

Michael Millenson (3/19/2011 at 11:47 AM)
The statement that 60 votes are needed to confirm is factually incorrect. A majority, 51 votes, is needed. But because the Republicans have threatened a filibuster [INVALID] and filibusters have become so easy, for both parties - 60 votes are needed to stop a filibuster. It's clear the votes are not there to do that, so the nomination is dead on arrival. The reporter and editors should know the rules of Congress. It's pretty easy.




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