Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.
In April 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Donald Berwick, a widely respected physician and health policy expert, to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Despite having broad support among other health care leaders and a long history of patient advocacy, most Republican senators were adamantly opposed to having Berwick in charge of one of the country’s largest government agencies.
Obama decided against putting Berwick through the confirmation process after it became clear that the GOP senators would stage a filibuster. Berwick’s sin: expressing admiration for the United Kingdom’s single-payer health care system in a 2008 speech commemorating the 60th anniversary of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS).
The headline of a story on the website of the conservative Heartland Institute summed up the GOP’s feelings about Berwick at the time: “CMS Nominee Favors Government-Run Rationing of Health Care.”
The story went on to quote Berwick as having said in England, “I am romantic about the NHS; I love it. All I need to do to rediscover the romance is to look at health care in my own country.”