HEALTHCARE DAY....This is sort of anticlimactic, but Barack Obama officially announced today that Tom Daschle would be both his nominee to head up Health and Human Services and his healthcare czar. Ezra Klein reports that Obama was quite clear about pushing through reform quickly:
Key words: "This year." Obviously, he doesn't mean in 2008. But that does suggest a year one commitment, which syncs with Obama's previous statement that he'd like to send a bill to Congress by March or April. Given the financial emergency, that might prove optimistic. But Obama made a point during the presser of arguing that the two are connected. "This has to be interwoven into our economic recovery program," he said "This can't be put off because we're in an emergency. This is the emergency!"
In response to the final question, the only one on health care, he said "the time is now to solve this problem. I met too many families in this campaing, even before the economic downturn, who were desperate." He then mentioned the role health care costs played in personal bankruptcies and employer struggles, and reiterated that "this has to be intimiately woven into our economic recovery program. It's not something we can put off because we're in an emergency. This is part of the emergency. We want to make sure the strategy reflects that truth."
So: good news. The only cautionary note I'd add is that it doesn't sound like Obama has made any commitments yet about what kind of reform he plans to focus on right out of the gate. If it's the full-blown plan he proposed during the campaign, that's great. If it's expansion of SCHIP and a push to automate medical records well, that's good stuff too, but not exactly the change we've been waiting for. I'm pretty optimistic that he's talking about the former, but obviously we'll have to wait and see.