President-Elect Obama Nominates Former Senator Secretary of Health and Human Services

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Today, President-elect Barack Obama nominated former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle as secretary of health and human services and named him the director of a new White House Office of Health Reform.

In his dual roles, Daschle will not only implement Obama’s vision at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but also have the responsibility of leading health care reform. During a morning press conference at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, Obama said Daschle will be “the White House’s voice on this critical issue.”

Obama said his new Administration will “modernize our health care system for the 21st Century; to reduce costs for families and businesses; and to finally provide affordable, accessible health care for every American.”

He said that Daschle is one of the nation’s foremost health care experts who knows how to reach across the aisle and bridge partisan divides, and who also has the trust of people from every angle of this issue.

“So let’s be clear. If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge,” Obama said. “I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort than the man standing beside me today.”

Daschle will be responsible not for implementing the nation’s health care plan and “will also be the lead architect of that plan,” Obama said.

Daschle said that he and the President-elect were “committed to an open and inclusive process for health reform that goes from the grassroots up.

“Addressing our health care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions. It will also make American companies more competitive and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin. Over the next few weeks, we will be coordinating thousands of health care discussions in homes across the country through our website, www.change.gov, where ordinary Americans can share their ideas about what’s broken and how to fix it.”

Daschle served eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, according the data from the President-elect’s office. He “is one of the longest-serving Senate Democratic Leaders in history and the only one to serve twice as both Majority and Minority Leader,” states a press release.

Obama cited figures which indicate health care premiums have nearly doubled over the past eight years and that 45 million Americans have no health insurance. He added that the high cost of health care was causing some small businesses to lay people off and other firms to close down. Health care costs also were preventing businesses from investing in research and development.

“Instead of expanding and creating new jobs, our companies are pouring more and more money into a health care system that is failing too many families,” Obama said.

“Day after day, we witness the disgrace of parents unable to take a sick child to the doctor, seniors unable to afford their medicines, people who wind up in the emergency room because they have nowhere else to turn. Year after year, our leaders offer up detailed health care plans with great fanfare and promise, only to see them fail, derailed by Washington politics and influence peddling.

“This simply cannot continue. The runaway cost of health care is punishing families and businesses across our country. We are on an unsustainable course, and it has to change.”

Obama said Dr. Jeanne Lambrew, “a nationally recognized expert on Medicare, Medicaid and children’s health care as well as co-author of a book about health care reform with Daschle,” will serve as deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

Lambrew is currently an associate professor of public affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas as well as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Along with their expertise in healthcare issues, Daschle and Lambrew were chosen because their “groundbreaking” book on the subject is “filled with fresh ideas and creative solutions,” according to the President-elect.

The new White House office will also coordinate efforts within the Administration, the Congress and across the country to pass health care reform, the President-elect added.

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