Having been installed by President Barack Obama in a recess appointment, the new director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made his first appearance before the Senate Finance Committee this week.
Dr. Donald Berwick sat before the committee Wednesday, but left before Senators had time to fully question the bureaucrat. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sounded off to CNSNews.com after Berwick's abridged appearance, describing the spectacle as "pathetic."
With so many questions about Berwick and the president's new health care plan going into effect, Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., limited senators to just five minutes each to personally question Berwick:
“We didn’t have enough time,” Hatch told CNSNews.com. “It’s clear that they held a hearing just to say they’ve held one, but to give five minutes on these very, very important questions, and all we’re hearing is how we should do a better job on prevention,” the senator said.
In addition, Hatch assumes that the Committee's time was so limited because Democrats are "deathly afraid" that some of Berwick's past "outrageous statements" will draw public scrutiny if they come out during a hearing.
“I’m sure part of the reason was that they didn’t want to have to put up with questions about some of the outrageous statements that the good doctor has made. Now they have a three-person majority on this committee. There’s no question that they could have [approved Berwick's nomination in committee], but I think they were deathly afraid that some of his ideas would come out and embarrass them at the polls."
When a CNSNews reporter tracked down Berwick leaving the hearing, he asked the new CMS director about comments he made in 2008 relating health care reform and the redistribution of wealth, claiming that a "just" and "humane" health care plan "must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate."
Berwick subsequently dodged the question, quickly stepping onto an elevator and responding only with, "I'm sorry, sir."