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Daschle Tapped for Dual Role to Reform Health Care

President-elect Barack Obama named Tom Daschle Thursday to head the Department of Health and Human Services and direct his administration's sweeping health care initiatives. Susan Denzter discusses the selection.

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    Next, the Obama cabinet choice for health care reform. And our health correspondent, Betty Ann Bowser, begins the coverage.

    BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour correspondent: The nominee today made it clear he knows the scope of the challenge before him.

    TOM DASCHLE, Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate: There is no question that fixing health care is and has been for many years our largest domestic policy challenge. We have the most expensive health care system in the world but are not the healthiest nation in the world. Our growing costs are unsustainable, and the plight of the uninsured is unconscionable.


    The former senator from South Dakota is not only the president-elect's choice for secretary of health and human services; he'll also lead a new White House Office of Health Reform.


    Addressing our health care challenges will not only mean healthier and longer lives for millions; it will also make American companies more competitive and help pull our economy out of its current tailspin.


    Daschle is experienced and skilled in the ways of Congress, where he served nearly 30 years, 10 as a party leader. He was an early Obama supporter and a key campaign aide.

    Since losing his Senate seat in 2004, Daschle has worked with a Washington law firm as a policy adviser and has pushed for health care reform.


    Tom could not have a better partner in this work than Jeanne Lambrew. Jeanne brings a depth and range of experience on health care that few can match.


    Daschle's deputy director in the new Office of Health Reform health reform will be Jeanne Lambrew, a former aide to President Clinton. They recently co-authored "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis." The book examines previous reform efforts, why they failed, and presents overhaul ideas.

    In rolling out his team today, Mr. Obama took note of the roadblocks Americans face in getting access to health care.


    It's hard to overstate the urgency of this work. Over the past eight years, premiums have nearly doubled, and more families are facing more medical debt than ever before.

    Forty-five million fellow citizens have no health insurance at all. Year after year, our leaders offer up detailed health care plans with great fanfare and promise only to see them fail, derailed by Washington politics and influence-peddling. This simply cannot continue.


    Both Mr. Obama and Sen. Daschle stressed that, even though the country is in a recession, they intend to push hard for health care reform and believe it will take place.


    Now, some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. And I ask a different question. I ask, how can we afford not to?

    Right now, small businesses across America are laying off or shutting their doors for good because of rising health care costs. Instead of investing in research and development, instead of expanding and creating new jobs, our companies are pouring more and more money into a health care system that is failing too many families.

    So let's be clear: If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge. I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort than the man standing beside me today.


    Daschle said he's looking forward to returning to public service.