Berwick's demise: A lesson for Obamacare opponents
On Friday, Politico reported:
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.
The White House had to use the recess appointment power to get Berwick in as the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, you will recall, because the Democratic Senate majority couldn't bring itself to call for a vote.
James Capretta, former associate director of the Office of Management and Budget and now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, had this take: "The truth is that Senate Democrats never really defended Dr. Berwick. They remain fearful of the rationing argument more than anything else, and from that perspective Dr. Berwick is their worst nightmare." Indeed, far from bemoaning the departure of Berwick, "The Senate Democrats look to me more relieved than upset that the nomination is now officially going nowhere," says Capretta.
This should remind Republicans and other opponents of a key point in the Obamacare debate: As much as the argument over Obamacare is about spending, taxes and the deficit, it is also about the quality of care that Americans will receive in a system in which indiscriminate cuts are made without true "reform." Unless there is something other than slashing reimbursement rates, Obamacare will inevitably lead to delay in or denial of care.
The House Budget Committee has already begun hearings on the cost implications of Obamacare, but given the obvious importance of -- and Democrats' sensitivity to -- Obamacare's implications for the quality and availability of care, it would seem advisable to have hearings on this topic as well.
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