National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

Dr. Berwick... Just What the Doctor Ordered

Enough is enough. Dr. Berwick - nominee for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) - has been the victim of partisan and baseless attacks, and at the Campaign for Better Care, we think it's time to set the record straight. That's why we organized a strongly worded letter in support of Dr. Berwick's nomination, which was signed by some 90 of the nation's top consumer, purchaser and provider groups. Dr. Berwick is the right leader, at the right time, to make health care reform work for patients and their families.

Why should you care about Dr. Berwick's nomination? The CMS is a critical federal agency that runs government-insurance programs for tens of millions of older persons, children, and those living in poverty. As Administrator, Dr. Berwick will help decide how to implement the new health reform law - a crucial role for the future of health care in the United States. That's why his opponents would have you believe that he will ration care and let the government make health care decisions that should be made by patients and their doctors.

On the contrary, Dr. Berwick has consistently prioritized patients' needs and preferences - and his record shows that commitment to patient-centered care. He is one of the nation's leading authorities on health care quality and improvement, and has dedicated his professional career to closing the gap between the health care we have and the health care we should have.

Driven by his belief that health care is a human right, Berwick has launched groundbreaking initiatives to reduce unnecessary deaths, minimize preventable harm from surgical complications, and put control of health care decisions in the hands of informed patients and their families - goals we share at the National Partnership and with the Campaign for Better Care.

Berwick's supporters describe him as a "passionate advocate for patients' rights," and he is "highly regarded in health-policy circles for his work to impose quality-control systems inside medical facilities and improve treatments."

The New York Times writes that "[w]orking with numerous hospitals and clinics around the country, Dr. Berwick has shown that it is possible to reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care while reducing its cost."

The Washington Post agrees: although Berwick's focus "has been on improving care, several health policy experts said his methods often result in lower costs as well."

And in a glowing endorsement of Berwick, a Los Angeles Times editorial states that "[o]nly in the topsy-turvy world in which end-of-life counseling services are called 'death panels' could a doctor who champions patients' rights and better medical treatment be labeled a threat to healthcare consumers."

So don't let the negative, partisan spin fool you: Berwick is the highly qualified, experienced, and patient-centered Administrator CMS needs in order to implement health reform in a way that will lower costs and improve health care coordination.

And the experts agree - Berwick has widespread support from doctors, hospitals, medical schools, consumer groups and several former directors of CMS who served under presidents on both sides of the aisle.

The Washington Post sums it up best: Donald Berwick is "just what the doctor ordered for CMS."


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