Daschle Tapped for HHS Secretary

The Caucus, the New York Times Political Blog, reports that senior Obama aides have said that Mr. Obama offered the nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services to Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the former Democratic Senate leader, and that Mr. Daschle has accepted.

Mr. Daschle was an early supporter of Senator Obama. Earlier this year, Mr. Daschle published a well-recieved book called Critical: What We Can Do About The Health Care Crisis.

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  1. I have Daschle’s new 206 page book “Critical” and I have read it carefully in all my free time. Under the heading Options for Coverage, he writes ” The key question for any health-care reform plan is ‘How will it cover people?’ Most of the world’s highest ranking healthcare systems employ some kind of a ‘single payer’ strategy…that is, the government, directly or through insurer’s, is responsible for paying doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. Supporters say single payer is brilliantly simple, ensures equity by providing all people with the same benefits, and saves billions of dollars by creating economies of scale and streamlining administration. But a pure single payer system is problematic in the United States, at least right now. Even though polls show that seniors are happier with Medicare than younger people are with their private insurance, opponents of reform have demonized government run systems as ‘socialized medicine’. The healthcare industry fears that government-set reimbursement will limit its ability to provide care and deaden incentives to develop new drugs and cures. Furthermore, many people who have insurance now are satisfied with it, and are wary of change.
    If passage of a single payer system isn’t realistic, what should we do?”
    This 3/4 page is the only discussion of single payer in the whole book! He’s unaware of the fact that 60% of physicians in this Country favor a single payer National Health Plan. He completely understands all the benefits to Americans of single payer, yet he dismisses single payer as an option.
    Here is an example of Change for the Common Good We Can’t Count On!
    Send this to the 50 million uninsured, 75 million underinsured, 60 million people on Medicare and Medicaid, 10’s of millions of unemployed, and millions under the care of the VA Hospital System
    and tell them they’ll have to wait a few more years for quality affordable healthcare in this Country. In the meantime, let’s all sit back and watch Daschle build his new redundant bureaucracy which he has
    named “Fed Health”, and cry all the way to the ER………..
    Howard Green, MD, FACP, FAAD, FACMS

  2. Daschle is not a good candidate for Health and Human Services Secretary, and I question whether his background has been thoroughly investigated.
    In 1994 and 1995 the Senator and his wife, who was second in command of the FAA, came under scrutiny for their possible role in protecting B& L Aviation of Rapid City, South Dakota (B&L) from sanctions due to safety violations found by the U.S. Forest Service. In February 24, 1994, 3 Indian Health Service physicians were killed when their chartered B&L plane crashed in Minot, N.D. The pilot was cited for gross negligence. Please refer to the New York Times’s article published on October 16, 1994 and subsequent articles. The issues regarding this crash were also presented on 60 Minutes in February 1995.
    Prior to the 1994 crash, The U.S. Forest Service had found numerous life-threatening safety violations (mechanical and pilot) of B&L Aviation over a period of approximately ten years and wanted B&L to be eliminated from flying federal charter flights. One Forest Service inspector even went so far as to report that he would not allow his family members to fly with B&L due to what he had found! Daschle, rather than initiating further investigation, attempted to protect his good friend, Merl Bellew, the owner of B& L Aviation, who greatly profited from the federal government contracts. Daschle chalked up the concerns of the U.S. Forest Service to its “dictatorial” attitude toward Merl Bellew. Daschle shielded B&L from any repercussions following the Forest Service inspections at the expense of the public.
    Senator Daschle is the very last person, who should be the leader of health reform, as he has demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of his constituents, and a failure to recognize that the delivery of health services to remote areas, at a minimum requires safe travel for the providers.

  3. Since 2007, Daschle has been an advisor to the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP. Although Daschle is not a registered lobbyist, his firm was paid $5.8 million between January and September to represent companies and associations before Congress and the executive branch, with 60% of that money coming from the health industry.
    Alston’s clients include HealthSouth Corp., CVS Caremark Corp., and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, a coalition of nursing homes. This worries me when it comes to the Nursing Home Transparency and Quality of Care Improvement Act that is now before Congress.
    Another familiar name that signed on with Alston & Bird after he left Bush’s administration is Tom Scully, a Senior Counsel in Alston & Bird’s Washington, D.C. office with his practice focusing on health care regulatory and legislative matters, as well as on advising clients on health policy and strategies for healthcare delivery.

  4. I believe this is a solid nomination, by someone with a sound understanding of a very wide range of the issues, as well as a keen familiarity with Congressional processes.
    Whether or not he can get meaningful health care reforms through, Mr. Daschle will have the ability to move HHS forward on issues ranging from performance/pricing transparency, reimbursements tied to outcomes, establishing an interoperable national health care infrastructure, establishment of a national comparative effectiveness institute that can drive best practices, establishment of a national health care technology assessment center, and many other important, sorely-needed functions.
    To me, it will be a breath of fresh air to have someone in the position who really does understand the problems and isn’t simply trying to hold back the tide on behalf of the current power players and the status quo.

  5. Couple of wildcards that have to be played out:
    1. Senate races in Georgia and Minnesota still are being recounted and likely the Coleman/Franken race will head to courts because their are things that stink in that race. If Democrats win both races, they have the 60 seats in the Senate and the filibuster threat from the Republicans becomes dull and void.
    Basically they are reduced to spectator status an important healthcare bill if it comes to that. Only wildcard is what Lieberman would do then.
    2. “Lion in Winter” – Return of Ted Kennedy to the Senate and I bet Kennedy has much less time to live than publicly let on by his staff/aides. Maybe less than 12 months unless he beats really long odds. I bet he tries to make a comprehensive health care reform bill in 2009 as last large hurrah and really the last large act by the Kennedy clan in Washington politics.
    Then it comes down to a matter of two thing after the wildcards get played out:
    1. Cash – Best estimate I have seen of the Obama plan is what PWC put out about a week ago. $75 billion in 1st year alone, probably close to $100 billion in 2010, and a $1 trillion price tag over the next 10 years although supposedly long-term savings.
    Size of the crater the Fed is trying to fill is much bigger than let on ($5 trillion and growing) and 2009 federal budget year is going to brutally be one of the most brutal in history as the second act of this economic meltdown continues and tapped out consumers/fall in spending continues to send shockwaves through the rest of the economy.
    2. Other legislative priorities – If you spend that money on healthcare, then some of the other priorities that Obama laid out including investment in green energy, etc will have to be curtailed or slashed entirely. Additionally, I am wondering if the Democrats will prepare a large 2nd or even 3rd stimulus package next year to boost up the economy and use that money instead of funding a large healthcare expansion.