July 07, 2010
The White House made the recess appointment of Harvard Medical School Professor Donald Berwick official Wednesday, selecting him to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and sidestepping a protracted battle on the Hill over his nomination.
“It’s unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges, many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
The White House also announced the appointments of Philip E. Coyle III as associate director for national security and international affairs, and Joshua Gotbaum as director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. All three appointments would confer the powers of a permanent appointee, but only until the end of 2011 when they would need to be renominated unless confirmed by the Senate before then.
Republican opponents bristled over Berwick’s statement that Britain’s National Health Service is an “example” for the United States and threatened to paint him as an advocate of “rationing health care.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) cheered the move calling it “the right decision” on Tuesday. But Republican senators have decried the appointment, and are being joined by at least one Democrat.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which would have been responsible for holding hearings into Berwick’s nomination, said he was “troubled” that Obama chose to install Berwick without a formal confirmation process.
“Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee — and answered,” Baucus said in a statement.
“Despite the recess appointment, I look forward to working with CMS as they implement health reform to deliver the better health care outcomes and lower costs for patients we fought to pass in the landmark health reform law.”
The CMS office has been without a permanent head since 2006, and the office will play a key role in the implementation of the health care legislation passed by Congress earlier this year.
Berwick served as President and Chief Executive Officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement at Harvard Medical School and is a professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
[Read the announcement from the White House.]
[Read statements from IHI leaders.]
[View other media coverage.]