I would say “dead man walking,” but such political metaphors are verboten if one is perceived as right of center. Nevertheless, as I predicted, Donald Berwick’s time as head of Medicare/Medicaid will end this year.
Recap: Berwick is a vocal health care rationing enthusiast–despite his weak efforts to walk that position back after joining government. His pro rationing views were even endorsed by Secretary Sebelius. But despite at the time a 60-40-59/41 working majority in the Senate, he was never called before a committee to testify in support of his own nomination, and Obama summarily made a recess appointment without even trying to garner Senate confirmation.
There was method to this undemocratic (but legal) maneuver: Obamacare will lead to rationing in the view of many critics–yours truly included. The administration was having a tough time passing the law and the last thing they wanted was a public hearing starring one Donald Berwick.
Obama renominated Berwick in the new Congress. But Politico is reporting it to be as dead (sorry for the incivility again) as the Wicked Witch of the East. From the story:
Senate Democrats have given up on confirming Don Berwick as CMS administrator in the wake of a letter from 42 Republican senators opposing the nomination, sources tell POLITICO. Citing the GOP letter, a person familiar with the situation said Senate Democrats and the White House “can do the arithmetic” and now see that there’s no way for Berwick to get the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate. At a meeting with health care lobbyists Friday, Democratic Senate Finance Committee staffers indicated that the nomination is dead, that there will be no confirmation hearing, and that they’ll soon be discussing “next steps” for CMS, sources said. In a letter Thursday, 42 GOP senators asked President Barack Obama to withdraw the nomination of Berwick, who received a recess appointment in July and was renominated in January. If he is not confirmed by the Senate, Berwick will have to leave by the end of 2011.
So Berwick will serve until the end of the year. He can do a lot of damage in that time. The real devil in the details of Obamacare is not as much the law–which is a mere skeleton–but the regulations. It will be the hundreds of thousands of arcane and hidden-from-public-view administrative rules promulgated by ideological bureaucrats like Berwick, that will suffocate the health care delivery and financing systems into a bear hug of complexity and added expense.
So, goodbye Dr. Berwick. But he was just a symptom. The disease of Obamacare remains.