Obama: Health Care Reform a Top Priority
Also addressed during President-elect Barack Obama’s juicy press conference about the Blagojevich scandal was the presser’s stated subject, health care.
Obama officially named former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as his choice for secretary of health and human services and director of the new White House Office of Health Reform. Obama also announced that Jeanne Lambrew, who, like Daschle, works on health care issues at the Center for American Progress, will serve as deputy director of the new office.
Obama pledged to make health care reform a top priority of the new administration. From his prepared remarks:
The time has come – this year, in this new Administration – to modernize our health care system for the twenty-first century; to reduce costs for families and businesses; and to finally provide affordable, accessible health care for every American.
The president-elect rebuffed critics who would argue that the current economic crisis should trump health care reform as a national priority by linking the two issues.
Right now, small businesses across America are laying people off or shutting their doors for good because of rising health care costs. And some of the largest corporations in America – including major American car makers – are struggling to compete with foreign companies unburdened by these costs. Instead of 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.
So let’s be clear: if we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge.
Daschle, wearing a pair of bright red, round glasses — much to the amusement of some in the TWI office — singled out skyrocketing health care costs the number of uninsured Americans as two as two principle targets of reform and made the connection between the financial and health care crises even more directly.
Addressing our heath care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions, it will also make American companies more competitive, address the cause of more than half of all of our personal bankruptcies and foreclosures, and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.
Daschle vowed to bring Americans into the reform process and share their ideas by utilizing the transition’s Change.gov Website as a forum for hosting online discussions on health care policy, some of which Daschle would personally participate in.
With increased Democratic control of both houses of Congress, and Democratic Congressional leaders like Sen. Ted Kennedy eager to tackle the issue, the chances of success in addressing the health care reform seem much more likely than under the past administration.