Obama’s HHS chief Daschle to speak at Colorado Health Summit

If the Colorado Health Summit wasn’t a big deal before, now it’s got some real fire power. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, named today as President-elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, will be the program’s keynote speaker next month.

A press release from Sen. Ken Salazar’s office today, which noted Daschle’s appearance at the event, was sent as the appointment news was breaking in Washington, D.C.

Daschle was considered a high priority for a cabinet position after supporting the Obama campaign very early on. Meanwhile, the progressive netroots held out hope that Gov. Howard Dean, a physician and soon-to-be former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, would get the nod.

Another big point in Daschle’s favor — penning the book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, which proposes a Federal Reserve-styled health care system that would integrate federal employee health insurance programs with Medicare, Medicaid and private employer-based plans.

Praise for the book came from no less than Obama himself on the back cover:

“The American health-care system is in crisis, and workable solutions have been blocked for years by deeply entrenched ideological divisions. Sen. Daschle brings fresh thinking to this problem, and his Federal Reserve for Health concept holds great promise for bridging this intellectual chasm and, at long last, giving this nation the health care it deserves.” —Senator Barack Obama (IL)

Daschle was defeated in his 2005 re-election bid by then U.S. Rep. John Thune, whose campaign was led by embattled current Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams.

The Dec. 5 public summit at the Colorado Center for the Performing Arts culminates Salazar’s 28-county listening tour to beat the health care reform drum over the last month. Both he, Daschle and former Gov. Roy Romer crisscrossed the state on a rural get out the vote tour for Obama talking up health care, agriculture and economic concerns.

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