Donald Berwick, MD, whose last day on the job as former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was December 2, 2011, targeted critics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and exhorted fellow medical professionals to support the purposes of the ACA, in a recent speech at the 23rd Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care in Florida. The Forum, sponsored by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, attracted approximately 6,000 healthcare workers and executives. Berwick was accepting the Picker Award for Excellence. The 65-year-old Berwick, a pediatrician and Harvard professor, has been known to publicly profess his admiration for the British healthcare system.
Berwick made a point of taking aim at the ongoing accusations that the ACA will bring about death panels and rationed care. Berwick characterized the death panel rhetoric as "hogwash" and "fabricated out of nothing but fear and lies." He added that "The true rationers are those who...stand in the way of change....." Berwick went on to say that "When the 17 million American children who live in poverty cannot get the immunizations and blood tests they need, that is rationing. When disabled American lack the help to keep them out of institutions and in their homes and living independently, that is rationing...And it is beneath us as a great nation to allow that to happen."
Berwick's made a number of notable contributions at the CMS, including helping start up the Partnership for Patients program, which, according to healthcare.gov, is designed to improve healthcare quality, safety, and affordability. It is a shared effort by hospital leaders, employers, physicians, nurses, and patient advocates along with state and federal governments.
Unfortunately, Berwick's time at the CMS, after being appointed by President Obama, was a short 18 months, which was the longest he could stay without Congress' approval. Berwick made a point of stating that Congress' approval rating is at an all-time low of 9%. He is succeeded by acting administrator Marilyn B. Tavenner.
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