The Campaign Spot

Obamacare’s Berwick Considering Run for Mass. Governor

Massachusetts residents, are you ready for one of the architects of Obamacare in the governor’s mansion?

Dr. Donald Berwick, a Boston-based pediatrician and former Obama administration health-care official, is giving serious consideration to running for governor as a Democrat in 2014, injecting himself into a conversation limited so far to two statewide officeholders.

Berwick, who served for a year and a half as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before resigning in the face of Republican opposition to his permanent confirmation, has been talking with family, friends, civic and business leaders about a possible run.

He met privately on Monday with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray in his Statehouse office to inform the Democrat of his plans, and has also spoken with state Democratic Party officials.

“That’s correct. I’m strongly considering it,” Berwick confirmed to the News Service on Tuesday.

Berwick joins Murray and Treasurer Steven Grossman among those giving serious thought to a run for governor in 2014 when Gov. Deval Patrick plans to leave office at the end of the second term.

Our Avik Roy wrote about Berwick repeatedly, and summarized his views when he tendered his resignation as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

Berwick was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his involvement in Tony Blair’s ill-fated efforts to improve Britain’s National Health Service. It was during this period that the NHS set up its notorious health-care-rationing board, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which routinely stymies the use of life-saving treatments in order to save money. Speaking at the NHS’s 60th anniversary in 2008, Sir Donald extolled the NHS as far superior to the American health-care system, a system veiled by the “darkness of private enterprise.” 

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces,” said Berwick. “It is a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can do. I do not agree. I find little evidence anywhere that market forces, bluntly used, that is, just consumer choice among an array of products with competitors’ fighting it out, leads to the health care system that you want and need. In the US, competition has become toxic. . . .  Do not trust market forces to give you the system you need. . . . I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do.” Berwick, as head of CMS, sought to be one of these “leaders with plans.”

Berwick deserves credit for his intellectual honesty. Unlike the president, who repeatedly tries to describe his health-care agenda in chin-strokingly centrist tones, Berwick embodies what that agenda is really about: an attempt to move America in the centrally planned direction of Britain, a move that Berwick is “romantic” about.

“Don’t put your faith in market forces…” That’s pretty much the Massachusetts state motto now anyway, right?


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