President-elect Barack Obama named former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Daschle was also named director of the White House Office of Health Reform. In that role, he will be responsible not just for implementing Obama’s healthcare plan, he will also be the lead architect of that plan, said Obama.
Dr. Jeanne Lambrew will serve as deputy director of this office, working with Daschle on those efforts.
“It is hard to overstate the urgency of their work,” said Obama. “Over the past eight years, premiums have nearly doubled – and more families are facing more medical debt than ever before. Forty five million of our fellow citizens have no health insurance at all – and day after day, we witness the disgrace of parents unable to take a sick child to the doctor, seniors unable to afford their medicines, people who wind up in the emergency room because they have nowhere else to turn. Year after year, our leaders offer up detailed healthcare plans with great fanfare and promise, only to see them fail, derailed by Washington politics and influence peddling.
In making the announcement Obama linked the restoration of the nation’s economy with making affordable healthcare available to more Americans.
“So let’s be clear: if we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge,” he said.
Daschle’s nomination had been widely assumed.
Daschle was a close adviser to Obama throughout the presidential campaign. He recently wrote a book on his proposals to improve health care, which Lambrew helped write, writes the Associated Press.
The Department of Health and Human Services is the government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. HHS includes more than 300 programs. In addition, HHS represents almost a quarter of all federal outlays, and it administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined. Its Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than one billion claims per year. Medicare and Medicaid together provide health care insurance for one in four Americans.
After losing re-election to the Senate in 2004, Daschle (D.-S.D.) became a public policy adviser at the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird, advising clients on issues including healthcare, financial services and taxes and trade.
Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director at BlackEnterprise.com