Raising Women’s Voices

The HHS under Secretary Tom Daschle

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on December 2, 2008

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle was recently announced the next Secretary of Health and Human Services to serve in Obama’s cabinet, so now is a good time to start asking in what direction the HHS will be taking health care reform, come January 20th.

The first place to look would be the book Daschle co-authored, titled Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, which lays out a plan similar to the health care platform on which Obama ran, save for Daschle’s view that all Americans should be required to either purchase a private plan or enroll in a public program (Obama has proposed requiring health insurance only for children).

The originality of Daschle’s vision comes in his proposal to create a Federal Health Board, similar in structure to the Federal Reserve Board, that would be composed of a group of experts appointed for long terms, so as to reduce the influence of politics and lobbying.  In an interview with Kaiser Family Foundation, Daschle described such a Board, as he sees it:

“They would start by creating a framework within which decisions involving best practices could be decided. Decisions involving greater emphasis on prevention could be considered. Decisions involving whether or not we could set up a — say a federal health court to deal with malpractice issues in the future — that kind of decision making, putting greater emphasis on management of the chronic care problems that we have in this country today but all of those decisions today are largely relegated to Congress. Congress sets some decision making with regard to many of these things at least on the public side and the bottom line is most of them never get made or get made well after the fact. Congress is just not capable of being the manager of a health care system and yet it’s largely Congress today that has that responsibility. It hasn’t worked for the last 50 years. It’ll work even less in the next 50.”

There is a lot of debate going on among health care policy experts and reform advocates about the potential merits and perils of such a body of policymakers.  For instance, would a board of unelected “experts” prove remote and out-of-touch with citizens’ concerns?  Could it be an efficient way of organizing policy discussion and formation when seemingly insurmountable ideological divisions make the political climate a hostile one for much-needed reform?

Of the book, then-Senator Obama said, “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.”

For coverage by the New York Times Editorial Board blog.

For discussion among policy experts at the National Journal of Health Care Experts blog.

For the full Kaiser Family Foundation interview with Daschle.

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