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GOP Finally Gets Their Chance to Grill Socialist Donald Berwick

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Posted on November 17 2010 12:00 pm
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The first  high-profile hearing after the November 2, referendum begins today when the Senate Finance Committee questions Dr. Donald Berwick, head of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). His appearance before Congress has taken a back seat to news reports of  scanners and gropings but Berwick may turn out to be far more dangerous than the TSA.

President Obama niftily sidestepped Congress when he appointed the Marxist-leaning Harvard professor to head the behemoth center during the summer recess. Dr. Berwick, known for his radical musings said this in a speech praising Britain’s National Health Service (NHS):

Any healthcare funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistributional.

Republicans have been waiting for the opportunity to get the doctor in the hot seat. Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Committee’s ranking member, stated that “Dr. Berwick was recess appointed before he had even a nomination hearing before the committee of jurisdiction.” The interrogators will have one hour to question him despite his controversial background.

In a July 8 article for NRB,  after Berwick’s appointment, I reported that Queen Elizabeth knighted the physician in 2005 for his work with then Prime Minister Tony Blair and England’s Modernisation Board.  He ‘fell in love’“with their rationed care.

Interestingly, committee members and aides who spoke with Politico yesterday revealed some of the questions they will be asking Berwick regarding his time in England; specifically his statement that NHS is “one of the greatest health care institutions in human history.”

From Politico:

You’ve previously professed your “love” for Britain’s National Health Service, admitting to being “romantic” about the nationalized system. What role did you play in shaping that system, and do you still see it as an “example” for the United States to follow?

‘He’ll be asked about what exactly he did for the U.K. government to be knighted,’ said Mark Hayes, until recently a health policy adviser to Grassley. ‘For him to have that level of  recognition conveyed on him, people will want to know that.’

Berwick’s fondness for England’s healthcare system is just the tip of the iceberg. A GOP Senate aid told Politico that they intend to grill the CMS chief and are coming ‘armed with a litany of op-eds he’s written and statements he’s made, and we’re going to be asking him about it.”

As head of CMS Berwick will be responsible for directing and implementing the various provisions in Obamacare that directly relate to 100 million Medicare and Medicaid recipients. His radical approaches to healthcare are well documented. A GOP Senate aide said, “We really want to get Dr. Berwick on the record explaining some of his past controversial statements,” like this one in July:

From AP:

The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.

Berwick has had plenty of time to arm himself as well. In a prepared statement for the November 17, committee hearing he writes:

To be absolutely clear, I am talking about reducing costs while improving the quality of care individuals receive’…[the law] explicitly protects the guaranteed Medicare benefits on which so many seniors and individuals with disabilities rely…It will not cut these guaranteed benefits, nor will it ration care.

The Senate Finance Committee must wade  through this kind of deceptive appeasement and do what the American people have hired them to do, hold Berwick accountable for his “romantic” attachment to socialized medicine. Today’s hearing will be the first test of the GOP’s commitment to truly exposing and challenging the Obama healthcare agenda.

Update: After the allotted hour today Senator Orrin Hatch called the hearing ‘pathetic” because of the time constraints. Senate Republicans came well-armed but were unable to interrogate Berwick. Sen Jim Bunning(R-Ky) told Berwick that the House won’t go so easy on him in January. We can only hope.

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