Republicans responded to today’s swearing in of Dr. Don Berwick to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by condemning President Obama for recess appointing the nominee. One by one, the GOP took to the Senate floor to argue that they would have welcomed a debate on Berwick’s qualifications in a fair and open hearing. “For anybody to suggest that Republicans are to blame for the fact that Dr. Berwick’s nomination didn’t come to a vote or wasn’t brought to the senate floor is sheer fantasy,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) insisted. “We have not held up the nomination. We have not protested a vote.” “We’ve been critical of Dr. Berwick. Since when has that been a crime?”
Kyl began with the standard Republican talking points. He claimed that Berwick will ration health care for American seniors, deny payment for services that were not cost effective and import British health care to America. But then, in an apparent effort to criticize Berwick’s view of prevention, Kyl took a turn for the unexpected and suddenly took credit for the preventive service provisions in the health law:
KYL: Another couple things about Dr. Berwick. He’s expressed disapproval for costly cutting-edge medical technologies and said prevention services like annual physicals, screening tests and other measures were over demanded. Well, one of the things we did in the health care legislation was to provide a lot of different incentives for preventive care, for screening to try to help people avoid illnesses on the theory that it would be a lot cheaper if we didn’t do a lot of treatment that was unnecessary. If you could identify in advance that an individual had a need for some treatment, maybe you could catch the disease, say the cancer, for example, early and not have to have the expensive treatment, the end-of-life kind of care that frequently is very, very expensive.
Kyl’s use of the pronoun “we” is surprising, since every single Senate Republican voted against the preventive provisions in the health care bill when they voted against the measure, and many in the GOP now want to repeal the entire law — including the very preventive screenings that could “catch the disease.” Kyl is co-sponsoring a measure to repeal the entire law.
Still, he isn’t the only Republican to take credit for some of the health care law’s more popular provisions. In April, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) took credit for provisions that would outlaw rescission of coverage and allow children to stay on their parents’ health plans for longer. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) similarly issued two press released praising the law’s “standards for the tax exemption of charitable hospitals” and its improvements of “Medicare payments to doctors in rural states like Iowa.”