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IHI: Hospitals, Patients Rethink Care; Berwick Blasts Rhetoric

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 8, 2011

Berwick Blasts 'Death Panel' Rhetoric
The brightest star of this year's forum, however, was IHI founder Don Berwick, MD. Last month he involuntarily gave up his 17-month stint as administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services because he knew he would not receive Senate confirmation.

Earlier in the week Berwick addressed a small group of reporters, and focusing his remarks the formation of the rules for accountable care organizations and the failure of some members of Congress to understand the gravity of challenges the healthcare system in faces .

In Berwick's keynote Wednesday, he blasted the divisive political rhetoric that mischaracterized the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by introducing  talk of "rationing" and "death panels."

Berwick called "the distorted and demagogic use" of the term "rationing"  "another travesty in our public debate." Rather, he said, "The true rationers are those who impede improvement, who stand in the way of change, and who thereby force choices that we can avoid through better care. 

"It boggles my mind that the same people who cry "foul" about rationing (are the same who) an instant later argue to reduce healthcare benefits for the needy, to de-fund crucial programs of care and prevention, and to shift thousands of dollars of annual costs to people—elders, the poor, the disabled—who are least able to bear them."

Rationing, he said, is more like what happens "when the 17 million American children who live in poverty cannot get the immunizations and blood tests they need...[and] when disabled Americans lack the help to keep them out of institutions and in their homes and living independently, that is rationing. 

"When tens of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries are thrown out of coverage, and when millions of seniors are threatened with the withdrawal of preventive care or cannot afford their medications, and when every single one of us lives under the sword of Damocles that, if we get sick, we lose health insurance, that is rationing."

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2 comments on "IHI: Hospitals, Patients Rethink Care; Berwick Blasts Rhetoric"


michael.cipolla (12/12/2011 at 4:26 PM)
"Hospitals have become hospital centric..." And physicians have become physician centric and healthcare insurers have become insurer centric and politicians have always been looking out for themselves. We don't need to get along with each other, but we do need to work together for the patient. That may mean the patient won't get all the MRIs or lab tests or concierge services or gourmet meals that make them happy, but don't contribute to getting them healthy or out of the hospital.

david hahn (12/8/2011 at 2:14 PM)
I do not bow to Professor's knowledge. As a health care professional , I don't think he understands that of which he speaks. Rationing is rationing when the money dries up. We must learn to be cost effective and it may not always be plesant