Medicare Rationing Czar Nixes Funding Disclosure

President Obama’s recess-appointed Medicare czar first promised but is now refusing to disclose information about funding and conflicts of interest posed by his prior employment — along with details of his reported lifetime premium healthcare benefits that would make him impervious to any Medicare rationing inflicted on America’s seniors.

Sir Donald Berwick, the new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid chief, sidestepped the Senate confirmation hearing process through direct recess appointment by Obama.  Since Berwick’s recess appointment, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), top Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance, has requested information that would have been available during the confirmation process.

In a July 29 letter, Grassley asked Berwick to disclose information about the sources of funding for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) where Berwick previously worked. 

“For months, I’ve asked for donor information regarding the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  At one point, Dr. Berwick promised to get me that information.  It never happened.  And now Dr. Berwick says it never will, at least not on his watch,” Grassley said.  “The CMS administrator has authority for the health coverage of more than 100 million Americans and manages a budget larger than the Pentagon’s.  At least a minimal amount of transparency is necessary for the head of such an influential agency.”

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York reported in July Berwick and his wife receive from IHI lifetime premium healthcare coverage benefits.  The Berwicks would not be subject to any Medicare rationing.

From the report: 

The institute has also been very good to Berwick personally. He received $2.3 million in compensation in 2008 (a figure that included retirement funds), and was paid $637,006 in 2007 and $585,008 in 2006. On top of that, investigators discovered a little-noticed paragraph in an audit report revealing that in 2003 the institute’s board of directors gave Berwick and his wife health coverage “from retirement until death.”

Millions of Americans worry about securing coverage and paying for it. Berwick, who advocates rationing for the masses, will never be one of them.

Berwick is now refusing to disclose the information. 

“The reason for seeking key donor information by correspondence is Dr. Berwick was recess-appointed without even a committee hearing, which would have looked at his organization’s funding and identified possible conflicts of interest in his control of the nation’s health care programs.  Instead, there’s a question mark over his organization’s financial dealings,” Grassley said after Berwick’s refusal to disclose the information.  “The public doesn’t have enough information to be able to evaluate his capacity to serve without any conflicts. We don’t know the key donors to IHI, which he founded and directed, so we don’t know who funded his salary for many years or who funded his retirement plan.”

Grassley says major conflicts of interest could arise from the half-trillion dollars in Medicare cuts Democrats passed in the Obamacare bill — cuts Berwick would be in charge of administering.

“If a medical device maker or insurance company helped to fund IHI, will those companies get favorable treatment as Dr. Berwick decides how to cut more than half a trillion dollars from Medicare, as required by health care reform?   The Administration’s answer is, trust us,” Grassley said.  “But instead of being left to hope for the best, the taxpayers need verification.  Without more information, the taxpayers are in the dark.  Stonewalling on basic information is unacceptable.  This isn’t a good way to run the government.”