Donald Berwick Bows Out

On the day before Thanksgiving, controversial health wonk Donald Berwick tendered his resignation as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “It’s unfortunate that a small group of senators obstructed his nomination, putting political interests above the best interests of the American people,” said deputy White House press secretary Jamie Smith. “One of [health care’s] most distinguished leaders and voices got mugged by partisan Republicans who know better and who got away with it,” wrote John McDonough of the Boston Globe. Berwick, however, wasn’t done in by Republican intransigence. He was done in by presidential cowardice. And therein lies a microcosm of everything that’s been wrong with Obamacare.

Let’s review the history. In April 2010, President Obama nominated Berwick, a decorated triple-graduate of Harvard and dean of the liberal health-policy community, to run the agency known as CMS. Berwick, who has tenured faculty appointments both at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, also founded a think-tank called the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which focuses on improving health-care delivery, and where Berwick collected compensation of nearly $900,000 in 2009. Berwick has had his admirers on the right; Newt Gingrich once saluted Berwick for seeking a “dramatically safer, less expensive, and more effective system of health care.”

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