Obama caves, surrenders top Medicare administrator

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A major supporter of the president’s health care reform law will be relinquishing his post as head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid to his number two in command after Republicans successfully prevented his confirmation to the post.

Harvard professor Donald Berwick — who once explained that “excellent health care is, by definition, redistribution” — will step down Dec. 2 officials confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The White House announced that they have nominated Berwick’s principal deputy administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, to take over the position.

Earlier this year, 42 Republican senators promised to block Berwick’s confirmation. Their success in preventing Berwick’s appointment represents another blow to the president’s health care law —  Berwick was an important actor in introducing its reforms.

Obama nominated Berwick to the post but before Democrats scheduled a hearing, the president bypassed the Senate and appointed him to the post during recess last July, which allowed him to serve through the end of the year.

The soon-to-be former Medicare head was a favorite target for Republicans, who pointed to past quotes they say demonstrated his embrace of socialized medicine and rationing as a sure reason to oppose him.

“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,” Berwick said, for example, in 2008 during a speech in the United Kingdom.

Berwick has denied that he is an advocate for government rationing of health care.

Tavenner will serve as interim head until her confirmation next year.

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