How do you confirm a controversial doctor to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a position that oversees more than $800 billion in healthcare spending per year?
One way is for the President to appoint him during a Senate recess when a confirmation vote is not required. Sen. John Barrasso (R.-Wy.) told Human Events that he is “worried about the possibility of a recess appointment over the 4th of July,” of nominee Sir Donald Berwick. Berwick once said he was a “lover” of Britain’s National Healthcare Services and plans to “ration healthcare with his eyes wide open.”
He is against pre-natal care and plans to cut many preventative care services such as mammograms. Even the New York Times said that Berwick faces a “long uphill struggle to win Senate confirmation.”
“Look, you and I have both seen recess appointments here on Capitol Hill but I just cannot imagine them doing this without a hearing,” said Barrasso. “But, you just have to think about what they have done with others and I haven’t even seen or heard anything about hearings.”
In March, President Obama named 15 people to key administration jobs through recess appointments. “We cannot drag our feet on this, we just passed the 90-day mark since this bill became law and still we have no one directing Medicare or Medicaid,” said Barrasso.
Barrasso has been a leader on the Senate floor fighting against the confirmation of Berwick. He said his worst fear of a Berwick confirmation is that “he does to the people of the United States what the British healthcare system has done to the people of Great Britain.”
“You know, cancer patients in the U.S. have much better survival rates and that’s not because we have better doctors, it’s just because people here get care sooner. How long would you want to wait if you just got diagnosed with cancer?” said Barrasso. Barrasso is a former orthopedic surgeon and his wife is a breast cancer survivor. Barrasso explained that his wife’s cancer was found in a mammogram that was done in her 40’s.
Under Berwick, “they have a ‘comparative effectiveness’ deal where women would not have to have a mammogram until they are in their 50’s because when performed in their 50’s it would save one out of 1,400 and when performed in their 40’s it would only save one out of 1,900… well, my wife is that one woman out of 1,900,” said Barrasso. Bloggers on Huffington Post write that Obama should “Obama should exploit every Senate recess during summer 2010 to ensure a fully-staffed federal government by autumn.”
Should Berwick be given a recess appointment he would have to be approved again at the end of the congressional session or the position becomes vacant. Depending on the Senate majority, he may or may not have the votes to be reconfirmed in January of 2011.