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Was Obamas CMS Appointment A Daring or Dumb Move?

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President Obama recently filled the vacant CMS administrator position by using the recess appointment process, which can bypass the Senate’s approval.

Obama tapped Dr. Donald Berwick for the position, a Harvard professor and president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. However, Republicans believe that Berwick is an advocate of health care rationing and claim that he praises the United Kingdom’s national health system.

According to Republican-circulated versions of Berwick’s remarks, he has said that the system “developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn.”

Although Berwick was nominated for the CMS administrator post in April, his confirmation was held up due to Republican opposition.

Despite the Republican opposition, many political analysts applaud Obama’s decision. His appointment is backed by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and other health organizations and patient advocacy groups. Three of his predecessors who held the same job in Republican administrations all gave their approval of his appointment. Hospital executives who have worked with Berwick call him a visionary and insightful leader. Most important of all, this will be the first time since 2006 that CMS will have a permanent administrator.

However, because the appointment was made during a recess, Constitutional law dictates that Berwick’s appointment will expire at the end of the next Congressional session, in late 2011. This might be just as Berwick is starting to effect change. Of course, he can always be reappointed, so he may have just enough time to prove that he was the right man for the job all along.

It may take a little while before we see the impact of Obama’s recess appointment, so it’s unclear at this time just how strong of an impact this decision could have on insurance agents. But one thing’s for sure – we certainly want to keep an eye on Berwick as he leads CMS through the era of change brought on by health care reform and the Obama Administration.


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