Reactions to Berwick's CMS Appointment

Janice Simmons, July 8, 2010

Yesterday, President Obama used a recess appointment to install Institute for Healthcare Improvement President and CEO Donald Berwick, MD, as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While recess appointments by presidents are not uncommon, they can be controversial—especially after healthcare reform has been debated publicly for the past year.

Berwick received hundreds of endorsements from medical, trade, labor, and consumer organizations. But he also has come under the scrutiny of numerous senators who had anticipated engaging him in discussion of over the finer details of healthcare reform.

In introducing him yesterday, Obama said it was “unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges,” many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes. The recess appointment will allow Berwick to “get to work on behalf of the American people right away,” Obama added.

“Given the importance of health reform to millions of Americans, tapping a respected leader for CMS is of the utmost importance,” said American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said in a statement. “Don has dedicated his career to engaging hospitals, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers to improve patient care. ... His knowledge of the healthcare system makes him the right choice.”

“Dr. Berwick will provide leadership and inspire the talented and dedicated people at CMS as it embarks on the implementation of the recently enacted healthcare law,” said Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals. “Dr. Berwick is a proven leader in improving the quality and safety of healthcare in this country. The FAH looks forward to working with Dr. Berwick to fulfill the promise of healthcare reform.”

J. Fred Ralston, Jr., MD, president of the American College of Physicians, said in his statement that his group joined more than 700 stakeholders on the front lines of healthcare delivery—including business, consumers, insurers, and clinicians—to support Berwick’s nomination. “He is well respected in the healthcare community and [is] known for his desire to bring constructive change to healthcare delivery.”

“As a research professional, a clinician, and a policy analyst, he brings an extensive background that’s crucial to ensuring that healthcare policy improves patient care and the practice of medicine,” said AAFP President Lori Heim, MD, of Vass, NC, in a statement. “His leadership has helped ensure that best practices in medical care and groundbreaking medical research are brought to the physicians' offices, and his support for strengthening primary care in the Medicare and Medicaid systems will help set the path for building up the foundation of all high quality healthcare.”

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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