Medicare Chief Berwick Uses Free-Market Analogy to Defend Obamacare

By Penny Starr | April 14, 2011 | 8:55 AM EDT

Donald Berwick, administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, spoke at an event to announce $1 billion funding for an Obamacare initiative that health care could be improved and made cheaper like televisions and telephones. ( Starr)

( – Donald Berwick, administrator for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), on Tuesday used a free-market analogy to defend the Democrats' new health care law, which expands government control over Americans' health-care choices.

Berwick said health care is “just like any other important segment of our economy” and “doing it right” will cost less in the long run.

“Computers today do more than they ever have at far lower prices,” Berwick said. “The same is true for cars, and TVs and telephones – just about every other product or service that we really care about. And they didn’t get there by cutting or by rationing,” Berwick said. “They got there by improving the processes that make their products and services.”
Berwick spoke Tuesday at a press conference where the Obama administration announced $1 billion in federal funding to improve medical care in the nation’s hospitals.

In contrast to his current views on how competition has improved and lowered the cost of computers, televisions and telephones, Berwick in the past has found "litte evidence anywhere" that "market forces" -- competition and consumer choice --"lead to the health care system you want and need."

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces,” he urged in 2008. "In the US, competition is a major reason for our duplicative, supply driven, fragmented care system,” Berwick said at the time.

Berwick, in fact, has expressed admiration for Great Britain's single-payer, government-run health care system, as reported earlier by “Cynics beware,” he said. “I am romantic about the National Health Service; I love it.”

He also has expressed support for rationing health care and redistributing wealth.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the event that Berwick was the 'right person at the right time' to administer the initiative. ( Starr)

At Tuesday’s event, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius repeated her view that Berwick is “the right person at the right time” to run the nation’s largest medical entitlement program: “As we move forward, we couldn’t have a better person guiding this effort than Dr. Don Berwick,” Sebelius said.

President Barack Obama appointed Berwick to head the CMS in July 2010 when Congress was in recess. That recess appointment will expire at the end of 2011, unless the Senate votes to confirm Berwick, whom Obama has renominated.

Berwick joined Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and guest speakers and others who are supportive of President Barack Obama’s health care law, including the head of the AFL-CIO and the president of the American Medical Association.

At Tuesday's event, Sebelius announced a “Partnership for Patients” initiative that will bring together hospitals, physicians, nurses, employers, unions, patient advocates, health plans, and others "to improve the safety of health care in America.”

Sebelius said the goals are to reduce preventable injuries” in hospitals by 40 percent by 2013, a reduction she said could save 60,000 lives. The initiative also aims to prevent hospital readmissions by 20 percent by 2013.

“That’s why we are announcing today that we will commit up to $1 billion in new funding from the Affordable Care Act towards our two initial goals,” Sebelius said. “In addition, we are providing hospitals and physicians with an unprecedented range of resources about what other health care providers are doing to improve patient safety.”