Tom Daschle, Your New Universal Health Care Czar

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: Nov 19, 2008 12:19 PM

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Tom Daschle will be the next Secretary of Health and Human Services, a government agency that consumes nearly 25% of all federal expenditures

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The agency oversees hundreds of government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and administers more taxpayer-funded grants than all federal agencies combined.

The HHS budget for fiscal year 2008 was $707.7 billion.

Daschle is not widely recognized as a health care wonk, but recently authored a book last titled "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis" that argues for the creation of a universal health care system and a Federal Health Board, much like the Federal Reserve.

The purpose of the board, Daschle has said in other interviews, would be to "preclude" Congress of the responsibility of becoming "mired in the minutia of details" of universal health care. Congress would simply delegate those duties to the board. This would increase the chances of a complex piece of legislation, like universal health care, getting passed by Congress.

Promotional copy for the book says:

" The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee necessary health care to all of its citizens, and as former senator Daschle observes, Skeptics say we can't afford to cover everyone; the truth is that we can't afford not to because U.S. economic competitiveness is being impeded by the large uninsured population and fast-rising health costs. Daschle's book delineates the weaknesses of previous attempts at national health coverage, outlines the complex economic factors and medical issues affecting coverage and sets forth plans for change. Daschle proposes creating a Federal Health Board, similar to the Federal Reserve System, whose structure, functions and enforcement capability would be largely insulated from the politics and passion of the moment, in addition to a merging of employers' plans, Medicaid and Medicare with an expanded FEHBP (Federal Employee Health Benefits Program) that would cover everyone. There is no more important issue facing our country, Daschle asserts, than reform of our health-care system, and the book's health-care horror stories bring this immediacy home."

During his time in the Senate, Daschle advocated providing prescription drugs for seniors and increased HMO regulation. He is considered to be an expert parlimentarian despite unsuccessfully leading the Democrats in demanding that legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security include liberal, labor hiring provisions in 2001. He also voted in favor or providing federal money to provide abortions for women in the military stationed overseas.

Daschle was unseated by Republican John Thune in 2004.