Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama, Daschle and Healthcare

It is now confirmed that Barack Obama has asked former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to serve as the administration's Secretary of Health and Human Services. While the nominee has already undergone a rigorous vetting process by the Obama transition team, he will of course face a Senate confirmation hearing after the President-Elect is inaugurated on January 20th. I will venture a guess that Daschle will be handily confirmed by the Senate, and I imagine that he is already setting his sights on a broad plan of action. Whether that plan leads to successful change in the healthcare trenches remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, a powerful bipartisan group of senators met in the offices of Edward Kennedy (D-MA) today, at the behest of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), to begin shaping potential Democratic legislation vis-a-vis broad healthcare reform.

With 15% of the country's GDP going to healthcare and the number of American uninsured (estimated at 40 to 47 million) expected to rise as layoffs and unemployment increase in response to the economy, the stakes are high for meaningful healthcare reform.

We all know we can do better. In terms of healthcare access, funding and quality of care, the World Health Organization has ranked the United States as 37th in the world. Concurrently, our ranking in terms of infant mortality and life expectancy also continue to plummet when compared with other nations. These statistics bear out the widely accepted notion that the enormous per capita expenditures on healthcare by the United States government have fallen far short of their potential, and many other countries have somehow managed to produce far better results utilizing a percentage of what we spend here.

The battle regarding the potential benefits and pitfalls of universal healthcare is on. Yesterday on Digital Doorway, I pointed readers towards an excellent website where the arguments for and against universal government-sponsored healthcare is being argued quite cogently. This nationwide conversation will only intensify, and it remains to be seen how the Obama administration will rise to this Herculean challenge.

I am personally and professionally invested in the developments vis-a-vis healthcare reform in the United States, and I assume it will be years before we know the true successes or failures of President Obama's efforts, with support from Tom Daschle and other key players (not to mention the input of the American people, if it is heeded amidst the noise).

These next months and years will be an interesting affair, and great grist for writers, bloggers, healthcare policy professionals, pundits, and ordinary citizens alike. Meanwhile, as the conversation and debate rages, the statistics related to the uninsured and underinsured will certainly worsen. We can only hope and pray that a truly remarkable (and successful) solution is indeed within reach.
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