Three Amigos: Obama, Berwick, and Keehan

Describing Berwick as “a visionary with great insight and knowledge of the health care delivery system,” Sister Keehen is again at the center of a controversy. We are quite familiar with Keehan, who has been under scrutiny since we first learned of her fascination with President Obama and his totally pro-death health care reform law. But this latest endorsement from the good sister really leaves me befuddled. I cannot imagine what she is thinking!

Family Research Council’s Tom McClusky released this statement upon learning of the Berwick appointment: “Donald Berwick has stated himself that England’s socialized medical services are better than those in the United States, and has said that ‘any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is, by definition, redistributional.’”

While we had no idea that redistribution of wealth was part of the overall agenda championed by the CHA, we are convinced that, for its version of the common good, the CHA is supportive of a lot of political ideologies that are far from being in agreement with fundamental Catholic social justice teachings. Among them we can add the just treatment of the ill and the dying.

Berwick has also said, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care–the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.” Since Berwick is an advocate of health-care rationing, we have to surmise that CHA has no problem with that policy either. Maybe this is why the CHA never admitted during the protracted debates surrounding health-care reform that the various proposals, and in fact the final law itself, contain provisions that encourage rationing.

Another voice of concern regarding the appointment of Berwick comes from Boston Globe reporter, Jeff Jacoby, “He [Berwick] has publicly saluted Britain’s socialized National Health Service for rejecting the ‘immoral’ American system and ‘the darkness of private enterprise.’ He declares that ‘the Holy Grail of universal coverage’ cannot be achieved with consumer-centered health care, but only through ‘collective action overriding some individual self-interest.’

Jacoby also quotes British journalist, James Bartholomew’s, views of Britain’s NHS, which offers a stark comparison to Berwick’s fascination with it: “British state-run health care is so amazingly, achingly, miserably, and mortally incompetent.” Jacoby then goes on to say, “By one metric after another — cancer survival rates, performance of diagnostic tests, availability of CT and MRI scanners, consultation with specialists — US health care is superior.”

Berwick is so enamored with the NHS that he told a British audience in 2008, “I am romantic about the NHS; I love it.”  According to Jacoby, “He not only loves the National Health Service, he extols it as ‘an example for the whole world — an example . . . that the United States needs now.’” With so much trepidation and lack of confidence abounding regarding the British NHS, we are left to wonder why that system leaves Berwick feeling “romantic” and why this system should be an example to the United States. This is the man Obama wants to head Medicare and Medicaid?

The words of Sister Keehen and Dr. Donald Berwick resound in our ears and should serve as a wake-up call for times to come. Such statements are disquieting and should be of urgent concern to not only the CHA but the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as pro-life organizations from coast to coast. Clearly this man is a dangerous appointee by any standards based on common sense and sound medical ethics.

And as the latest news reports about the health care reform law just revealed, the situation in crowded emergency rooms from coast to coast is going to get much worse because 32 million more Americans are going to be covered by health insurance. If you don’t think that doesn’t give a new, frightening meaning to triage, I recommend you stay tuned.

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  • Joe DeVet

    In this recounting of Catholic complicity in an immoral health-care system, let us not short-change the role of the Chief Enabler of Keehan’s antics–the USCCB itself.

    As I recall, the USCCB threw itself foursquare behind socialized medicine, having only 3 objections to the final bill as passed–abortion funding, lack of conscience protection, and lack of specific provisions for care for illegal aliens (called ‘immigrants’). They did not object to rationing, which was clearly part of the package to anyone paying attention, as the USCCB certainly was. The whole bill, except for the 3 provisions named, was perfectly OK with the USCCB–rationing and all.

    Yes, the USCCB criticized Keehan and the CHA for their unconditional support of the bill as it was. But they did not criticize the bill for its rationing features. Don’t expect them to do so now.

    In fact, no less a light than Cardinal George himself wrote a shameful piece on the bill shortly after passage, stating to the effect that “we will be watching closely to be sure the ‘executive order’ by Obama against abortion funding will be enforced.” (not a direct quote) And by what authority will Cardinal George act to oppose this funding when it happens, when legally the executive order cannot countermand the actual law?? His pastoral also praised those who “bravely fought for” socialized medicine and criticized the motives and the judgment of those who opposed it.

    Is Cardinal George the only one in the country who did not recognize the sham of the ‘executive order’? Or is it possible that by pretending to believe in it, he was providing political and moral cover for his Catholic Chicago Machine buddies and Part-Time Pro-Lifer Bart Stupak who voted for the bill?

  • I wish we could argue the principle whether a free and just society should offer universal health insurance or leave health care up to the markets. Myself, I am a beneficiary of Medicaid but I would be overjoyed if there were a market-based solution for my health care needs. As I’ve argued in the past, nonprofit health insurance cooperatives, including some run by the Church, could be part of the answer. I just don’t buy that socialized medicine is the only way to produce a just health system; in fact, it creates more injustices (e.g. rationing) than it cures.

  • small-scale mutual aid insurance used to be a very common part of the American social landscape. As I recall reading, the federal government found that some 1% of them were fronts for sedition, and outlawed the lot.

    Licensing and regulation of insurance companies are both at or beyond the level of psychotic strangulation.