On Tuesday, Obama used a “recess appointment” to officially place Berwick in the top spot at CMS. The move allowed the trained pediatrician and founder of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Institute of Healthcare Improvement to skirt what would have been a lengthy and contentious confirmation process in the Senate.
The appointment angered some Republicans who hoped to press Berwick on comments he has made in the past showing a fondness for the government-backed health system in Great Britain. GOP lawmakers also sought to paint Berwick as a supporter of rationed healthcare.
A senior GOP aide on the Senate Finance Committee said in an e-mail that Republicans had pressed Democratic leaders to hold a hearing on Berwick last month.
The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over federal health nominees, and the aide signaled that its members had nearly all of Berwick's background information in hand.
But questions about the funding for Berwick's IHI think tank and whether or not he had had ties with the end-of-life-care advocacy group Compassion and Choices remained unanswered, according to the aide.
Even so, the provider community has been in lockstep in endorsing Berwick. The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Catholic Health Association say they support his appointment.