Tag Archives: daschle

Daschle pushes health IT to Obama, clients profit

South Dakota Democrat and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is not registered as a lobbyist, and has not held public office since he lost a re-election bid in 2004. Instead, Fred Schulte and Emma Schwartz report for the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, that Daschle has existed in a nebulous limbo that’s allowed him to pivot deftly from pushing electronic medical records as an almost-HHS secretary to helping private firms profit handsomely from their implementation.

Tom Daschle’s official Senate portrait, courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Daschle, as Obama’s first choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services last year, was a forceful advocate for using billions of dollars in economic stimulus money to help doctors and hospitals buy electronic medical records systems.

Tax problems led him to withdraw his name from consideration for the cabinet post. Then, a few weeks after Obama signed off on a stimulus plan that provided some $45 billion for digitizing the health system, Daschle began assisting private clients seeking to profit from the new law.

Public interest groups take issue with Daschle’s activities:

“He was in a position to drive public policy and develop connections within HHS that could provide his clients with an unfair competitive advantage in receiving taxpayer dollars, at the same time he and his firm benefits from his previous activities,” said Scott Amey, a lawyer with the Project on Government Oversight.

In the rest of the solid, in-depth piece, the reporters track both the breadth of Daschle’s influence (he has the ear of the president) and the impact he’s had on bottom lines across corporate America.

Big names in health care reform convene for panel

The BIO International Convention, described on its Web site as the largest global event for the biotechnology industry, will bring together Sen. Tom Daschle; Sen. William H. Frist, M.D.; Gov. Howard Dean and Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush for a keynote discussion about health care reform.

Promotional material about the panel, sponsored by Amgen, says it will “preview the congressional debate as republican and democratic policy leaders and political operatives discuss their differing perspectives on the challenges and opportunities associated with the comprehensive reform of the U.S. health-care system.”

The panel, scheduled to start at noon ET 12:40 ET, will be webcast.  (Web site and press release apparently have the time wrong.)

AHCJ member Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs and an  on-air analyst on health with The NewsHour with  Jim Lehrer, will moderate the session.

Obama fought internal opposition to health reform

Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic writes about how health care reform nearly got pushed aside in President Obama’s budget proposal.

Cohn's article says this Jan. 29 photo was taken during a meeting about how to fund health reform. (White House photo by  by Pete Souza)

Cohn's article says this Jan. 29 photo was taken during a meeting about how to fund health reform. (White House photo by by Pete Souza)

Indeed, there were moments during the transition and the early weeks of the administration when it appeared that the push for comprehensive health care reform might collapse before it had even begun. During this time, a debate raged inside the administration, with some senior officials arguing that the new president should wade into health care gingerly – or even postpone it altogether – because it would cost too much, distract from other priorities, and carry huge political risks.

However, Cohn reports, Obama insisted that health care remain on the agenda and, according to a senior adviser was the aspect of the budget the president discussed most.

Cohn’s interviews with more than a dozen administration insiders provide “a window onto the political and personal dynamics that dominate the new White House. It also offers insights, some of them surprising, into the management style of the president himself.”

Speculation begins on new FDA, CDC leaders

Can an acting FDA commissioner make a difference? There is no clear answer, of course. Generally, such a role is seen as caretaker until, or if, a permanent choice is confirmed. But for now, Frank Torti, the agency’s chief scientist and principal deputy commissioner, will run the FDA. And, although Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Tom Daschle has said he wants to move quickly to insert agency heads, a new FDA commish is unlikely to be appointed for a few months, given the confirmation process.

Moreover, Torti is intriguing to many because of his background – he’s an academic cancer researcher – who gave a speech last May at the FDA Science Board in which he outlined his plan for his first 100 days as FDA’s chief scientist and “sounded like someone who was ready and willing to settle into the job for the long haul … Even the title of his speech had a political ring to it: ‘Science at the FDA: Vision, Plans and Timetable.'” (Partial transcript available through the RPM Report .) Maybe Torti will turn out to be more than a place holder.

Julie Gerberding

Julie Gerberding

Separately, Julie Gerberding is about to step down as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will be replaced by William Gimson III, the agency’s chief operating officer, until a permanent replacement is named. The Wall Street Journal speculates that a permanent head may be James Marks, a former senior CDC official who is now at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Helene Gayle, former CDC director for HIV/AIDS and president and chief executive officer of CARE; or Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Meanwhile, see the discussion at CDC Chatter.

Daschle uses video to discuss suggestions

Last week, the Obama team started a ‘community discussion‘ on its Web site about health care. Well, former Sen. Tom Daschle, who will head Health & Human Services, was so happy with the results – more than 3,500 responses – that he and Laura Arnonson, a member of the health policy team, filmed a short video that they posted yesterday to quickly review a couple of key issues and the overall response to their effort.

To be candid, there wasn’t much said that we don’t already know. Daschle, at various turns, says things such as, “We need to really put the emphasis on prevention” and later, “We need to contain costs.” To be fair, the willingness to engage the public in this way is worth noting. After all, when was the last time that HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt deliberately spoke to Americans by way of YouTube? Send us a clip if you have one. Meanwhile, Daschle promises more online discussions are forthcoming.

The Obama team also uses a “word cloud” to illustrate “the 100 most commonly used words in the healthcare discussion.”