Berwick given recess appointment to head Medicare agency

President Obama appointed Donald Berwick, the Harvard Medical School professor and one of the nation’s leading advocates of patient safety and health care quality, to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The so-called recess appointment allows Berwick, whom the President had nominated for the post in April, but not yet confirmed due to Republican opposition in the Senate, to assume the position for up to a year.

Berwick is a pediatrician and the long time president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a Boston-based nonprofit that has led national efforts to reduce medical errors and preventable problems such as hospital-acquired infections.

In the White House announcement of the appointment made along with other nominees whose confirmations have been delayed, President Obama issued the following statement:

“It’s unfortunate that at a time when our nation is facing enormous challenges, many in Congress have decided to delay critical nominations for political purposes. These recess appointments will allow three extremely qualified candidates to get to work on behalf of the American people right away. With more than 180 nominees still pending before the Senate, it’s my hope that my colleagues in Congress will agree to put politics aside and move forward on these vitally important positions.”

In a statement U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called the appointment “an insult to the American people.” He added, “Berwick is a self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won't even have to explain his views to the American people in a congressional hearing.”

A full story on the appointment is available here.

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