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CMS nominee
Dr. Donald Berwick

Hospitals go to bat for Berwick

by Brendon Nafziger , DOTmed News Associate Editor
Embattled Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services nominee Donald M. Berwick has the support of some major hospital groups.

On Monday, 10 leading hospital groups representing the bulk of America's hospitals, including the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the National Association of Children's Hospitals, stood behind President Obama's pick for the top CMS post, as some politicians gear up to oppose his nomination.

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In a letter sent to the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and the ranking member, Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), the hospital groups lauded his work to reduce health care-related infections and to improve care coordination.

The groups credited Berwick, the founder of the Cambridge, Mass.-based think tank the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, with having "produced real breakthroughs in efforts to disseminate best practices and train health care professionals."

"Dr. Berwick is a trusted and respected voice within the health care community," the groups wrote.

Other signatories to the letter include the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Federation of American Hospitals, National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, Premier, Inc. and VHA Inc.

Berwick, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard University and quality improvement expert, has long championed cracking down on what he sees as the staggering levels of waste in the American health care system.

After being nominated by Obama in April, Berwick drew the ire of some Republicans for what they see as his support of health care rationing and favorable comments he has made in the past about Britain's National Health Service.

Sen. Pats Roberts (R.-Kan.) suggested Berwick's remarks about Britain's health care system made him seem like "a proponent of socialized medicine," according to a statement from Roberts on his website.

In a speech delivered two years ago at a conference about the NHS, Berwick suggested ways the British system could improve, but also described himself as an "American fan" of the UK program. "I am romantic about the NHS; I love it," he said.

On Monday, Republican leaders hinted there would be resistance to his nomination.

According to the Washington paper The Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Berwick would not receive unanimous consent. Berwick's name did not appear on a list of around 67 Obama nominees likely to get approved by unanimous consent, the paper said.

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