Raising Women’s Voices

What will Daschle’s withdrawal mean for reform efforts?

Posted in DC Reform by raisingwomensvoices on February 6, 2009

The former nominee for HHS Secretary, Tom Daschle, was to be a key component of health care reform efforts under the new administration, given his befitting combination of Senate experience and extensive knowledge of health care.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement released Feb. 3 that Daschle’s nomination “was no ordinary appointment and today is not a good day for the cause of health care reform. Tom brought a unique level of legislative skill and experience to this position in addition to his passion to achieve affordable health care for every American.”

While it is not expected that the track to reform will be halted by this shake-up, Steve Teske, at BNA’s Health Care Daily Report, writes of certain delays that are to be expected.  Of course, President Obama must choose a replacement; those under consideration include former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).  Secondly, Daschle’s withdrawal will undoubtedly delay the appointment of other HHS officials, including the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Lambrew ObamaSources close to the White House are saying the quest for a replacement is currently focused on governors, for their experience running state Medicaid programs.  Because Daschle was intended to serve both the cabinet position and as director of a new White House Office of Health Reform, there is talk of replacing him with two people.  Under consideration for the latter position is Jeanne Lambrew, Daschle’s co-author on his recent book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.

One New York Times writer posits that the interim period could allow Congressional Democrats a useful window of time to refine their reform plan and strategy before they are presented with the President’s proposal.  Senator Max Baucus, who has been working side-by-side with Senator Ted Kennedy in pushing forward health care legislation since before the inauguration, dismissed the significance of Daschle’s withdrawal, saying, “It’s barely a little ripple in the water.”

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