Meet Obama’s Cabinet: 7 Things to Know about Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle

Obama Health Care

Update:  Daschle withdrew his name after being investigated for failure to pay back taxes.

His bio:   “In Daschle, Obama has chosen a lawmaker known for his political and policymaking skills. He is a longtime student of the ways of Washington: He began his career as a Senate aide in 1973, then won election to the U.S. House in 1978 and the Senate in 1986. He became Senate Democratic leader in 1994, and served in that capacity until he was defeated for re-election 10 years later.  Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, Daschle could be strongly partisan when he needed to as party leader. But he could also strike a bipartisan deal. And as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, he was called on repeatedly to deal with a wide variety of health issues relating to Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.” (NPR)

His dual role:  “Daschle’s new post as head of the Health and Human Services Department and a newly created White House health reform office gives the former Senate majority leader unprecedented power to drive the coming health care debate.  The double-barreled position gives Daschle authority over the policy office and the agency that would be charged with implementing the policies.  ‘This truly does represent a czar role. That phrase gets thrown around a lot in Washington and sometimes it doesn’t reflect the reality. But this time it does,’ said Phil Blando of the health care consulting group AB+M Partners. ‘He’s the go-to guy across the board. People will try to end run around him and they’re going to have no where to go.’ ” (Politico)

He wants your input:  “As it drafts its proposals to improve health care, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is asking for the public’s help, encouraging people to meet and discuss the issue.  The Obama team asked for interested members of the public to gather to discuss their views and submit comments via the Web site change.org. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle…said about 8,500 meetings were held in the last two weeks of December.”  (Las Vegas Sun)

He’s pushing for an independent health board:  Daschle “wants to establish a Federal Health Board, an independent entity like the Federal Reserve. The board would make coverage decisions for federal health programs. It would, he says, ‘reduce or deny payment for new drugs and procedures that aren’t as effective as current ones.’  Mr. Daschle predicts that such decisions will ‘rankle powerful interest groups, such as drug manufacturers.’ Critics say the board would be picking winners and losers among makers of drugs and medical devices.” (New York Times)

His proposed new public health care plan and its critics:  “One area that’s igniting controversy is the proposed new public plan that would compete with private health plans. Supporters say such a safety net is needed for people who can’t get employer-sponsored coverage and would set a high standard for quality and value, similar to what Medicare’s been able to achieve…But the health insurers’ group prefers its proposed solution of accepting all applicants regardless of preexisting conditions as long as everyone is required to buy health insurance.  [Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)] pointed to a report the group released last week that showed low payments in Medicare and Medicaid are being shifted to consumers and employers in the form of higher premiums. ”Providers aren’t getting enough to cover costs, so they’re charging more on the commercial side to make up the difference.'”   (Marketwatch)

Lessons he learned from Clinton’s attempted reform:  “He thinks delays by the Clinton administration and soft support from the left in the early 1990s allowed Republicans and industry groups such as insurers to kill the Clinton plan with a well-organized political campaign that made voters afraid of reform.  Daschle is urging a far more aggressive push by those advocating systemic change…Many in Washington, including Daschle, think Clinton made a crucial error by allowing his opponents to portray his plan as a threat to the healthcare Americans had.  The insurance industry famously exploited that perception with its ‘Harry and Louise’ ads, featuring a couple fretting that the federal government would take away their ability to choose coverage…In 1993, the White House wrote a massive healthcare bill after then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton led a months-long task force that was widely perceived as shutting out key players in the debate, including congressional leaders.  ‘Relying so heavily on the task force certainly contributed to the eventual defeat of the president’s plan,’ Daschle wrote in his book, noting that the process ‘only bred resentment among the people who weren’t invited to participate, and produced a ‘compromise’ without the input of key stakeholders.'” (Los Angeles Times)

His wife’s lobbying ties:  “Linda Hall Daschle, a former deputy administrator at the Federal Aviation Administration and aviation industry executive, is widely regarded as one of Washington’s more influential lobbyists. Her current clients include American Airlines, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, as well as large airports and aircraft manufacturers. She represents companies before both executive agencies and Congress, and sometimes she gives advice to companies looking for strategic partners.” (Business Week)

Posted by: Mariela

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