State of the Nation

Daschle out at HHS – Sharfstein in at FDA?

Oie_090203_daschle_634The early stages of the Obama administration are beginning to
resemble the Clinton years, which I 
observed from afar (I was a foreign
correspondent in Tokyo at the time). Take Zoe Baird and substitute Tom
Daschle, who dropped out of the running for Secretary of Health and
Human Services today because of tax and conflict-of-interest problems.
Take gays in the military and substitute putting in charge of the bank
bailout a man (Tim Geithner) who knows all the bankers from his years
at the New York Fed, seems overly solicitous to their needs, and has
his own tax problems.

Once again, a new Democratic president appears to have a semi-automatic weapon semi-permanently aimed at his foot.

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The Case for Ron Wyden

Let me be the first to suggest that the President name Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to be the next 
Secretary of HHS. The
withdrawal by Tom Daschle has underscored just how important it will be
for the President to name someone who can bring a number of key
strengths to the job. All day reporters have been asking me whom the best person was for the
President to now turn to and get his health care agenda back on track.

Seems to me Ron Wyden fits the bill.

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Berwick “Perfectly Designed” for HHS Secretary Post?

Several well-informed sources independently told me that Institute
for Healthcare Improvement founder Dr. Donald Berwick had been chosen
by the Obama administration to run the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services — a fascinating selection. (This article,
though, reminds us of Don’s background in public health and in
government commissions that deal with a broad swath of the policy

But would Berwick continue to agree to serve under an HHS
secretary with less prestige, Congressional clout, presidential access
and deep understanding of health care than Tom Daschle? I’m presuming
here that Berwick already had a personal relationship with Daschle and
his senior advisers. Still, Berwick has spoken in recent months of
reform from “the inside out,” and there are few “insider” positions
with more influence over health care than being in charge of the
Medicare program.

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| Matthew Holt

Carmona could be logical pick for HHS job

Merrill Goozner
has been speculating about who will be nominated as the new Secretary
of HHS. He reviewed his most likely candidates (David Cutler or David
Blumenthal), and threw in a “dark horse” potential nominee: Ken Thorpe
(whom I’ve interviewed several times on this blog and spent time with during Obama’s inauguration ceremony).

Tommy Thompson told me that the nominee is likely to be a current or former democratic governor (such as Kathleen Sebelius or Howard Dean).

But I’ve been pondering the “long shot” question and think that
Goozner may have missed a more obvious choice – someone who works with
Ken Thorpe at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease: former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona.

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The Perils of Play or Not Pay

Remember those heady days with a newly-elected Democratic President
and solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, when it
seemed that national health care reform was just around the corner?
Remember how, after the face-off between the liberals who wanted a
single-payer system and the conservatives who wanted as little change
as possible, the centrists took command? Remember the early 1990s, and
play-or-pay as the magical way to universal coverage?

So you do
remember play-or-pay? Be careful about admitting it. After the failure
of the Clinton plan and the collapse of similar state reforms in
Washington and Massachusetts, a mere mention of the term would cause
political eyes to roll, while its inclusion in any reform plan was
enough to kill the proposal dead, dead, dead.

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Economics | Permalink
| Matthew Holt

Obama remains committed to health reform, White House official tells wonks

President Obama remains committed to comprehensive health care reform
in 2009 and believes the declining economy emphasizes its urgency, a
top White House official told hundreds of health policy experts Monday
in Washington D.C.

“The current economic crisis has really highlighted the problems and put them under fluorescent lights,” said Jeanne Lambrew, deputy director of the newly created White House Office of Health Reform.

The Academy Health conference
is probably the wonkiest of meetings on the increasingly crowded health
reform conference circuit. University PhDs and private sector policy
analysts are here to discuss and assess the impacts of reform.

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