Berwick– appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) without a Senate confirmation hearing or vote– will not answer questions from the U.S. Senate, according to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts and members of the committee with oversight over his nomination.
“We’ve been trying to get him to answer questions in writing. He won’t do that,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “We’ve been trying to get him up for a hearing. He won’t do that.” The Senators want to examine Berwick’s “role and background” as he implements the largest overhaul of the healthcare system in 45 years.
Current polls show Americans want that overhaul repealed: 56% (CNN) and 61% (Rasmussen). Kansans for Life has based our Obamacare opposition on the new ways abortion and rationing have become embedded into health care. Our parent group, National Right to Life Committee, terms Berwick a “one-man death panel.”
Sen. Roberts’ press release included questions he wants Berwick to respond to and noted,
“The American people deserve to hear Dr. Berwick’s plans for radically reforming the American health care system directly from the man himself.”
“They deserve to hear him explain: His long history of support for rationing; How he plans on ‘bending the cost curve down’ now that it’s clear that Obamacare will not; How he came to his conclusions on the amount of ‘waste’ in our current system; and finally, why he supports tightly restricted single-payer health care that only the very rich can circumvent. ”
Under the rules of Presidential recess appointments, Berwick can remain CMS head until the end of 2011, unless the Senate Finance Committee calls him in for a confirmation hearing and the Senate then holds a confirmation vote that fails. With a Democrat committee chair, this is unlikely to happen.
“Dr. Berwick is now in charge of an agency that has a bigger budget than the Pentagon…including over half a trillion dollars in Medicare payments’ cuts” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
“This may be the greatest transfer of power to a non-elected official,” said Dr. Michael Smith, a forum participant from the 60-Plus Association (the conservative counterpart to the AARP). Smith said there are already signs of rationing:
“For the first time that I can ever recall, an FDA [Food and Drug Administration] advisory board recommended withdrawing government approval of a life-extending cancer drug because of what I believe to be cost concerns,”
Worse, Berwick’s boss is HHS head, Kathleen Sebelius.