Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dr. Berwick Discovers Toxic Politics Too Late

Dr. Berwick listens to Ms. Sebelius
If you're interested in a post-mortem of Dr. Donald Berwick's failure to be confirmed as CMS Administrator, check out his November 13 JAMA article on "The Toxic Politics of Health Care." 

He identifies six causes of our national discontent, which the social media-minded Disease Management Care Blog has boiled down into 140 character or less tweetable summaries:

Money: there are too many entities making too much money to give up on the status quo. "Reducing costs" means cutting into someone's income.

Unorganized majority latent interests: the majority of Americans can't see or translate their interests into effective political action.

The Silence of Professions: Organized medicine has been all about the SGR and tort reform.  They should advocate for health reform.

Suspicion of Science: public trust in science is eroding because of its elitism. That, in turn, feeds into fear of rationing.

Duality of self interest: a lot of people work in the health care industry. Cutting costs will add to U.S. unemployment woes.

Ambivalence about Federalism: it's difficult to develop a coherent national health policy when power is shared with the states.

Ambivalence about the poor: it's difficult to convince the U.S. electorate that disadvantaged populations deserve public support.

For the record, the DMCB openly supported Dr. Berwick's nomination and still feels that he would have ably served his country as CMS Administrator.  That being said, one cause for his undoing was his failure identify these issues before he was forced to leave Administration. 

Docs like Dr. Berwick - and that includes the DMCB - unfortunately think that all they need are the facts to win the day. Not so: they need to address the money, catalyze coalitions, nudge stakeholders, reconcile multiple interests, cut deals and still do what's right.

He was the wrong guy at the wrong time.

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