Kerry comes to defense of nominee to run Medicare, Medicaid programs

May 14, 2010

Susan Milligan, The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON — Senator John F. Kerry rose to the defense of Harvard professor Donald Berwick yesterday, deriding Republicans who have used what Kerry called “phony assertions’’ to damage Berwick’s nomination to run the country’s Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“It’s no secret that the national Republican Party has tried to crank up the attack machine and make his nomination a distorted referendum on reform,’’ Kerry said in a statement after meeting with Berwick. “I hope everyone will instead take a deep breath and look at the facts about this public servant who is beyond debate a dedicated pediatrician and nationally recognized expert on health care quality.’’

Berwick, a professor at both Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, is President Obama’s pick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administer government health care programs for the elderly as well as the poor and disabled. The agency will play a pivotal role in the new health care law, which includes cuts in Medicare funding and a historic expansion of Medicaid to extend coverage to a broader group of Americans.

As president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit, Berwick has drawn praise from health care specialists across the philosophical spectrum for his knowledge of the issue and approaches to solving the problem of increasing costs.

But some Republicans, eager to fight over the contentious health care law, plan to use his nomination hearings as a platform to challenge the law Obama signed in March.

Several senators took to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to criticize Berwick, suggesting that he endorsed “rationing’’ of health care. Berwick, as is typical for appointees, has declined to be interviewed ahead of his nomination hearings, but Kerry spoke up yesterday for the doctor.

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