Sen. John Barrasso tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama’s appointment of the head of Medicare and Medicaid during a congressional recess — and without hearings before Congress — is “an insult to the American people.”
The Wyoming Republican also says Obama has been “intentionally misleading” by not naming Dr. Donald Berwick as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services until after the healthcare reform bill was passed.
And Sen. Barrasso — who is also a board-certified orthopedic surgeon — warns that based on controversial statements made earlier by Dr. Berwick, the United States appears to be heading down the road to healthcare rationing.
Barrasso was appointed to fill the seat formerly held by Craig Thomas after his death in June 2007, and easily won a special election to retain the seat in 2008. He has expressed anger over Obama’s appointment of Berwick during the Fourth of July recess, circumventing the legislative oversight process, and was asked if many of his colleagues feel the same way.
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“I think they do, and you even have seen Democrats, including [Senate Finance Committee Chairman] Max Baucus who’s opposed to this as well, and he sees this as an insult to the American people.
“It’s time for Dr. Berwick to come and explain his views to the American people at a congressional hearing. But with this recess appointment, there’s not even any hearings.
“When Barack Obama was a senator and President Bush made a recess appointment, then-Senator Obama called that appointee damaged goods and said he would have less credibility.
“The president should have made an appointment to be the head of Medicare and Medicaid over a year ago. It should have been one of his first appointments, because we have spent a year discussing healthcare legislation.
“When the president proposed cutting $500 billion from our seniors on Medicare, there should have been somebody in charge of Medicare who would then come to Congress and testify what the impact of that is going to be on the lives and health of our seniors.
“And when the president proposed to cram 16 million more Americans onto Medicaid, a program where many of those people can’t find a doctor now, there should have been somebody in charge of Medicaid who could come to Congress and explain what the impact of that kind of legislation would be.
“So I think it’s been intentionally misleading on the part of the president to not appoint anybody through the whole debate and the whole discussion, and then to appoint somebody only after the bill is signed into law.”
Responding to claims by Democrats that Obama made the recess appointment because Republicans were stalling, Barrasso says: “That’s a big smokescreen and people on both sides of the aisle know that.
“The Republicans have been calling for a hearing. There’s been a lot of stalling by the White House.” He reiterated: “This is intentionally misleading and I think an insult to the American people.”
Asked about Dr. Berwick’s “biggest liabilities,” Barrasso tells Newsmax: “Just look at his quotes. This is someone who said, ‘I’m a romantic about the National Health Service [in Britain]. I love it.’ He said the decision is not whether or not we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.
“You say, is that what I want for my grandparents or my parents or me? When you look at the survival rates for cancer in the United States, it’s so much better than it is in Britain. And it’s not because our doctors are all that much better, it’s that patients get care sooner in the United States than they do in Britain. Because when you delay care, you deny care.”
Barrasso says forcing the passage of Obama’s healthcare bill when 60 percent of Americans opposed it was “unseemly” and “wrong.” The administration, he asserts, “has said the heck with you, the American people — we know better than you do.”
Barrasso notes the difference between healthcare insurance “coverage,” which people in Canada have, and “care,” pointing out that he has operated in Wyoming on people from Canada because they couldn’t get care in Canada.
“They have coverage, but if you can’t get the care that you want or need, the coverage isn’t worth anything. And that’s where I think we’re heading in the United States with putting Dr. Berwick in charge of the $800 billion budget for Medicare and Medicaid.”
Barrasso agrees with the 60 percent of Americans who say they would like to see the healthcare reform bill repealed, and says it should be “replaced with something we know will work to help people.”
The senator, who is a member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also says he fears that if Democrats lose control of Congress in November, they could try to push through some very unpopular positions during a lame duck session, including cap-and-trade legislation — which would be a “terrible mistake” and be harmful to the economy.
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