Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) took to the Senate floor today to continue the GOP’s ‘second opinion’ campaign against the new health care law and Donald Berwick, President Obama’s nominee to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). During a rather meandering speech about health care rationing, Roberts tried to connect Berwick to the British health care system and imply that the nominee supports death panels:
ROBERTS: What did he [Berwick] mean when hesaid that equity is a necessary component of quality? Does that mean that high-quality care should not be available unless it is available to all? This certainly seems to square with the United Kingdom’s practice of denying or delaying access to the latest break though drugs or technologies because of its high cost…Now I know that “socialized medicine and “death panels” have become loaded terms. I understand that. But if that is what you are for, you should just say so. Don’t be afraid to have this discussion. Dr. Berwick certainly hasn’t been shy about his views in the past.
Watch a compilation:
Roberts also criticized Berwick for supporting universal health care, noting that Berwick’s sentiment may “sound very nice” and “very realistic.” “The reality is, that declaring health care a human right necessarily places one above others, suppressing the rights of others in favor of another government favored group….what you’re essentially saying is that some people have a right to somebody else’s property, whether that be taxable income or doctor’s services or their health care,” he said. Health care “cannot be properly described as a right without egregious government coercion and income redistribution and patient care consequences.”
Despite Roberts’ fear mongering and use of ‘loaded terms’ like ‘rationing,’ the non-GOP talking point reality is that “Medicare makes decisions on coverage all the time.” As Bush appointee Thomas Scully, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2001-2003, told me last year, “I made decisions on coverage all the time… You got to do it the right way” by relying on research about the effectiveness of certain drugs. There is simply no way around it. However, since the government spends about $700 billion a year on treatments that don’t improve health care outcomes, the first order of business is to identify this waste and redistribute it to other parts of the health system.
This afternoon, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) — aka ‘Wyoming’s Doctor’ — appeared on MSNBC to argue that Berwick likes the British health care system so much, he managed to get himself knighted! (He has, along with Rudy Giuliani, George H. W. Bush, J. Edger Hoover, and Henry Kissinger). Watch the segment: