Medicare Chief Berwick Ducks Question of Whether Obamacare Redistributes Wealth

By Matt Cover | November 17, 2010 | 5:05 PM EST

Dr. Donald Berwick, who was recess-appointed by President Obama to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (AP Photo.

( – Dr. Donald Berwick, the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), declined to answer a reporter's question on Wednesday about whether the health-care law signed in March redistributes wealth, something that Berwick in the past has insisted is a necessary element of any "just" health care system.

In 2008, Berwick gave a speech in which he said a "just" and "humane" health care funding plan "must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate."

The hearing attended by Berwick, who received a recess appointment from President Barack Obama and thus bypassed the normal Senate confirmation process, was the first in which he was called upon to answer questions from senators since he assumed his post at CMS in July.

After the hearing, tried to ask Dr. Berwick about controversial statements he has made about the nature of health care financing.

On July 1, 2008, for example, Berwick told an audience at the 60th anniversary of the British National Health Service in England, “[A]ny health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must--must--redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.”

As Berwick was exiting the Senate Finance Committee’s antechambers, attempted to ask him whether he thought the new health care law pushed by the Obama administration redistributed wealth. “Dr. Berwick, on the 60th Anniversary of Britain’s National Health Service you said that –”

Dr. Berwick: “I’m sorry I’ve got to go.” “Can I ask you a question?”

Dr. Berwick: “I’m sorry, sir, I’ve got to go.” “Does ObamaCare redistribute wealth the way you said?”

Dr. Berwick: “I’m sorry, sir.”