Obama taps Daschle to lead health care reform

It’s official. On Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama announced that former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who kicked off the new administration’s drive for health care reform at an appearance in Denver last week, will be his nominee as secretary of health and human services. Calling Daschle “one of America’s foremost health care experts,” Obama said he was confident the former Senate majority leader had the chops to “bridge partisan divides” to enact widespread health care reform and implement the changes once the legislation has passed.

Obama made the introduction at a Thursday press conference that also included discussion about a topic — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest— that excited reporters more than the long-expected Daschle nomination.

From Obama’s prepared remarks introducing Daschle and Jeanne Lambrew, who will be deputy director of the newly created White House Office of Health Reform, via DemConWatch:

Today, I am pleased to announce two leading members of my health care team whose work will be critical to those efforts: Senator Tom Daschle and Dr. Jeanne Lambrew. I haveasked Tom to servenot just as my Secretary of Health and Human Services –- but also as Director of my White House Office of Health Reform. As such, he will be responsible not just for implementing our health care plan –- he will also be the lead architect of that plan. Jeanne will serve as Deputy Director of this office, working closely with Tom on these efforts.

It is hard to overstate the urgency of their work. Over the past eight years, premiums have nearly doubled — and more families are facing more medical debt than ever before. 45 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 health care plans with great fanfare and promise, only to see them fail, derailed by Washington politics and influence peddling.

This simply cannot continue. The runaway cost of health care is punishing families and businesses across our country. We are on an unsustainable course, and it has to change. The time has come –- this year, in this new Administration –- to modernize our health care system for the twenty-first century; to reduce costs for families and businesses; and to finally provide affordable, accessible health care for every American.

Now, some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask a different question –- I ask how we can afford not to.

Right now, small businesses across America are laying people off or shutting their doors for good because of rising health care costs. And some of the largest corporations in America –- including major American car makers –- are struggling to compete with foreign companies unburdened by these costs. Instead of investing in research and development, instead of expanding and creating new jobs, our companies are pouring more and more money into a health care system that is failing too many families.

So let’s be clear: if we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge.

The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America immediately seconded the nomination of Daschle and applauded the choice of Lambrew. From a statement issued by Cecile Richards, via the National Journal’s Hotline blog:

Tom Daschle is an excellent choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Former Sen. Daschleis a strong advocate for health care reform and understands the need to improve access to quality, affordable health care. We are delighted by his nomination and look forward to working closely with Sen. Daschle on promoting and protecting the full range of women’s health care, including family planning and prevention services.

We’ve worked closely with Sen. Daschle during his time in the U.S. Senate. Former Sen. Daschle has a strong record of standing up for women’s health and women’s rights and supporting commonsense policies that improve health outcomes for women.

We also applaud the appointment of Jeanne Lambrew as deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform. She is one of the leading health policy experts in the country, and someone who is an advocate for women’s health issues and prevention measures.

We are confident that President-elect Barack Obama, incoming HHS Secretary Daschle, and Jeanne Lambrew will represent an administration committed to ensuring women’s access to affordable, high-quality health care, family planning and prevention services, and to protecting a women’s right to choose. Planned Parenthood is excited about the opportunity of having true partners in the White House and HHS committed to promoting and protecting women’s health.

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Ernest Luning

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