Daschle promises aggressive health care reforms

Chris Rizo Jan. 8, 2009, 7:59pm

Tom Daschle (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is widely considered a foe of the tort reform movement, pledged Thursday to aggressively pursue a retooling of the nation's health care system if confirmed as President-elect Barack Obama's health secretary.

In addition to nominating him to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Obama tapped the former South Dakota senator with helping him to overhaul the nation's health care system as leader of the new White House Office of Health Reform.

"The flaws in our health care system are pervasive and corrosive," Daschle told a Senate panel Thursday. "They threaten our health and economic security."

Speaking to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Daschle also said he would promote health care reforms that are "aggressive, open and responsive to American concerns."

Daschle said that meaningful health care reform must increase access to care while containing cost.

To help cut costs and improve outcomes, Daschle,who lost his Senate seat in 2004, said input from Republicans is critical and very much sought.

"I really want to work in a collaborative way," Daschle told committee members. "It's the only way are we going to get this done."

He said it is unacceptable that one-in-six Americans lacks health insurance.

"As we face a harsh and deep recession, the problem of the uninsured is likely to grow," Daschle said. "But the number of uninsured only describes part of the problem. Even Americans who do have health insurance don't always get the care they need, especially high-value preventative care."

According to the National Association of Manufacturers' tally of Daschle's voting record from 1999 to 2004, of the 10 identified votes, he opposed tort reform measures every time. In 2004, he won acclaim from the New York State Trial Lawyers Association for his efforts to block legal reforms.

Before he can become U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, Daschle must first be confirmed by the Senate Finance Committee, which has not yet scheduled his confirmation hearing.

"If confirmed, I will use these dual roles to marshal the talent and energy necessary to at least succeed in making health care affordable and accessible for all Americans," Daschle said.

Daschle told lawmakers that federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration became politicized under the Bush administration. He vowed not to allow politics to get in the way of science as health secretary.

"I want to reinstate a science-driven environment," Daschle said. "I want to take ideology and politics as much as humanly possible out of the process and leave the scientists to do their job."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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