Although no official announcement has been made, former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle is most likely slated to head the Obama administration’s efforts to enact health reform legislation as the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Daschle has been a close advisor to Obama, and his long experience on Capitol Hill makes him a prime choice to steer health legislation through Congress. Reform advocates consider the selection a sign that the Obama administration will seek to fulfill its promises to make health reform a top priority.
Daschle’s familiarity with health policy issues is evident in the book he co-authored earlier this year: Critical: What We Can Do about the Health-Care Crisis. But with less administrative experience than the governors who preceded him, Daschle will need capable deputies to oversee key HHS agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The former Senator from South Dakota lost his seat in a hard-fought battle in 2004. He was criticized then as being too much of a Washington insider, and his nomination provoked similar comments from some parties. But most observers regard the appointment as a realistic assessment that consummate political skill is needed to reform the nation’s healthcare system.