Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daschle Tapped as Secretary of H&HS

It appears that President-elect Obama has tapped former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle will also be the White House's point person on all health care policy. He will be to Obama what Hillary was to Bill in the first Clinton term.

After losing his Senate seat in 2004, Daschle remained in Washington and became an early supporter of Obama's White House bid when he decided not to launch his own. So it is hardly a surprise that Daschle would enjoy a major role in the Obama Administration.

I am not sure how Obama and Daschle can possibly implement any kind of universal health care much less any kind of meaningful health care reform with the economy in its current state. There is no doubt there are tremendous short comings with our health care system not the least of which is not only the lack of access to health care insurance but inadequate health care insurance. One should not be put into a position to file for bankruptcy because of illness and injury to oneself or a family member.

As someone born and raised in Canada and has lived down here for nearly a decade I've experienced both health care systems. They both have their virtues and they both have their faults. My biggest single concern about implementing a universal health care system in the United States is that health care services will be rationed. Canada's health care system has been plagued by waiting lists for surgery and MRIs. There are actually more MRIs here in Boston than there are in all of Canada. That's not good. Some people die while waiting for health care. That is not good either.

What could happen would be what was done here in Massachusetts. When Romney was in office he took measures to bring about mandatory health care insurance. This has been extended and expanded under Governor Patrick. Health insurance companies have geared their policies to individual holders and have lowered their premiums making it more affordable for more people. Of course, there are conservatives who will argue that we shouldn't mandate that people have health care insurance and that such edicts are intrusive.

Health care reform is not a cut and dry matter and will be an immensely complicated undertaking regardless of the approach. But with government run health care comes waiting lists and I fear that if Obama and Daschle take this approach they will end up reducing access to health care. That, of course, assumes they are in a position to do anything at all.

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