Daschle: Obama health plan will be broad at first | AspenTimes.com

Daschle: Obama health plan will be broad at first

Catherine Tsai
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Former U.S. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, who is the nominee for health and human services secretary in the Obama administration, applauds before speaking about plans for reforming the country's health care system during the 2008 Colorado Health Care Summit in Denver on Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. The summit capped off a 31-county tour of Colorado by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to discuss the condition of the nation's health care system with elected officials and business owners. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER ” Former Sen. Tom Daschle, in line to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services, says the Obama administration will need to focus on a health care policy that has broad support and doesn’t get bogged down in details or get set aside.

Daschle spoke at a conference in Denver Friday, saying health care reformers must apply the lessons learned during the Clinton administration, when a massive proposal for universal coverage stalled.

Without criticizing efforts under then-President Bill Clinton, Daschle said health care advocates will have to stay on the offense this time instead of being forced to play defense, and that President-elect Barack Obama’s team has to focus on a broad framework and delegate details to others.

“Details kill,” said Daschle, a Democrat and former Senate majority leader.

Obama has settled on Daschle to be secretary of Health and Human Services but hasn’t formally announced it.

Daschle said Obama’s transition team will hold community discussions around the country this month to solicit ideas for boosting access and quality of health care while lowering costs.

He said controlling costs would be a crucial part of stabilizing the economy, as layoffs strip more people of health insurance and as employers’ health care costs rise.

Without controlling health care costs, any bailout to auto manufacturers would be “almost meaningless,” he said.

“There’s no question the economy is going to be directly related to our capacity and our ability to reform the health care system in the months ahead,” Daschle told about 500 people at the conference, sponsored by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

He warned against sticking with the status quo. The aggregate cost of taxes, premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for health care was about $7,500 per person in 2007, and that could double by 2015 if nothing is done, he said.

“Defenders of the status quo are going to have to explain why change is not better than what we have now,” Daschle said.

Echoing comments Obama made during his campaign, Daschle said those who are satisfied with the health care they have should be able to keep it, while resources should be pooled so that those without proper health care have the same plan offered to members of Congress.

Public programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and the children’s health insurance program must be protected, he said.

He advocated an emphasis on wellness, including support for nutrition education and physical education in schools, health care coverage for all regardless of pre-existing conditions, and incentives to address shortages in the medical field, all of which drew applause from attendees.

He also said health care must make better use of technology and move toward electronic records.

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