CHA Lauds Obama Pick of Socialized-Medicine Admirer as Medicare Head

Fri Jul 9, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 9, 2010 ( - The Catholic Health Association (CHA) has applauded President Obama's recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick, an ardent admirer of the U.K.'s socialized medicine and of health care rationing, to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

CHA president Sr. Carol Keehan called Berwick "well qualified to implement provisions of the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

"We agree that the administration needs Dr. Berwick in place now as CMS chief in order to work on the mandates created under the health care overhaul, especially since CMS has not had a permanent administrator since 2006," said Keehan. The press release said that "the Catholic health ministry looks forward" to working with Dr. Berwick.

Berwick has been severely criticized by conservative and pro-life groups since his appointment was announced. The National Right to Life Committee has called him a “one man death panel.”

Burke Balch, director of NRLC Powell Center for Medical Ethics, called the appointment “disastrous news for the vulnerable, especially the elderly and the sickest of American patients."

CHA has already won a spot in the bad books of U.S. pro-life groups and bishops after it provided key support to the federal health care bill back in March. The Catholic organization publicly came out in favor of the bill in the lead-up to the final vote, lending political cover to Catholic Democrat lawmakers who were looking for a way to support the bill despite heavy opposition from the U.S. bishops over the bill's expansion of abortion.

Obama later praised CHA for their support, and gave Sr. Keehan one of the ceremonial pens used to sign the document, a gesture reserved for parties who substantially contributed to a measure's success.

Those who campaigned against the health care overhaul often warned that Obama intended to institute a “single-payer” system like those in Canada and the UK, which have been criticized for their dependence on rationing health care to compensate for runaway government expense. Obama insisted at the time, however, that contrary to statements he made prior to running for the presidency, he did not favor a single-payer insurance setup, and that the bill that would establish a uniquely "American" system.

But pro-life leaders now warn that the rise of Berwick, who avoided a potentially controversial and damaging confirmation hearing process in the Senate via a recess appointment, shows that opponents were right to warn that Obama is seeking to bring in such a system.

Berwick has repeatedly professed, in glowing terms, his admiration for the U.K.'s National Health Service and the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence, and called Britain's move towards socialized healthcare a "wise choice."

Last month, pro-life leaders called upon CHA - which had recently released another statement praising Obama's "strong leadership" in passing the health care bill - to prove their dedication to the pro-life cause by supporting legislation that would stop abortion funding in health reform. CHA has not replied to the request.

See related coverage:

Obama Bypasses Senate to Install Controversial “Rationing Czar” at Medicare Center

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