President Obama has appointed Dr. Donald Berwick as head of CMS during Congress's recess .If you like central planning and the notion of redistribution of wealth, you should love Dr. Berwick at least if you believe he was sincere in his speech praising the National Health Service in Great Britain.But is there another side to his philosophy?
He said that we need "leaders with plans" to design and reform the U.S. health care system. He said that"excellent health care is by definition redistribution". See here for a portion of speech praising the British NHS for in which the "redistribution " quote appears.
He has expressed his "love" for the NHS which is well known for its particular form of rationing medical care. This poses an interesting and puzzling contrast with the following statement from his paper from Health Affairs (vol.28,no.4):
Evidence-based medicine sometimes must take a back seat. First, leaving choice ultimately up to the patient and family means that evidence-based medicine may sometimes take a back seat. One e-mail correspondent asked me, "Should patient ‘wants’ override professional judgment about whether an MRI is needed?" My answer is, basically, "Yes." On the whole, I prefer that we take the risk of overuse along with the burden of giving real meaning to the phrase "a fully informed patient." I contemplate in this a mature dialogue, in which an informed professional engages in a full conversation about why he or she—the professional—disagrees with a patient’s choice. If, over time, a pattern emerges of scientifically unwise or unsubstantiated choices—like lots and lots of patients’ choosing scientifically needless MRIs—then we should seek to improve our messages, instructions, educational processes, and dialogue to understand and seek to remedy the mismatch. For the same reason, I wish we would abandon the word "noncompliance." In failing to abide by our advice or the technical evidence, the patient is telling us something that we need to hear and learn from. Honestly, how many of us have ever faithfully taken a full ten-day course of a prescribed antibiotic or never consciously skipped a statin dose? Are we fools who did that? Or did we choose that because of some sensible, local considerations of balance, convenience, or even symptom information that the doctor never had?
I would have liked to have heard his attempt to reconcile those views some of which sound like advocacy for ground up versus a top down control mechanisms with his affinity for the rationing activities of the NHS and his preference for leaders with plans to design the health care system but the recess appointment eliminates the need for Senate confirmation and the hearings that precede it.So we may never hear that.
Does Berwick believe the patient should call the shots or should the "leaders with plans" be the decision makers? It is hard to believe that in his beloved NHS a patient can get an MRI if she wants one or for that matter get certain cancer treatments? Perhaps he can miraculously merge those views which appear to be contradictory and the result of his leadership at CMS in the era of Obama care will be health care that is " generous, hopeful, confident, joyous and just " which are the words he used to characterize the NHS. What does it even mean to describe a health care system with as many problems as have been documented in the NHS as hopeful and joyous?