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Obama Taps Daschle For Health Secretary, Director of White House Health Reform

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Giving Tom Daschle these two jobs is actually an extremely significant move, as the AP notes:

In previous administrations, the White House and not the Cabinet agency has led attempts to expand coverage, potentially at the expense of the health secretary’s decision-making power.

Daschle’s joint appointment “ensures that there is one primary voice speaking on behalf of the president when it comes to health care reform,” said Chris Jennings, who was President Bill Clinton’s senior health care adviser. “Both in the Bush and in the Clinton administrations, there was a question about who was talking for the president and what level of authority they have. This resolves it from day one.”

And both Obama and Daschle tied the need for healthcare reform to the ailing economy…

“If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge. I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort,” Obama said of the ex-senator from South Dakota.

Daschle, 61, said he believes fixing health care — expanding coverage, improving quality and slowing costs — is the nation’s biggest domestic policy challenge.

“We have the most expensive health care system in the world, but are not the healthiest nation in the world,” Daschle said. “Our growing costs are unsustainable, and the plight of the uninsured is unconscionable.”

My gut tells me that meaningful health care reform is a couple years off yet, but it’s certainly doable in an economic climate where untold millions will be losing health care and want a safety net so they won’t fall hopelessly into debt because of some unexpected illness.