PharmExec Blog

Daschle Ditches HHS Nomination

In light of the controversy surrounding his tax records, Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tuesday. But by throwing Daschle’s nod out the window, it could drag any hope for healthcare reform in 2009 with it.

Daschle seemed like a shoe in for the HHS position from the start because of his close congressional ties and well-chiseled plan for getting the job done. He was also asked to oversee a new White House Office of Health Reform.

But with the recession getting deeper and a vacant HHS top spot, the outlook for change in 2009 is starting to look grim. According to a report released today by analysts at Miller Tabak, Daschle’s withdrawal “effectively terminates any chance of healthcare reform in 2009.”

“Given the time it will take to choose and vet a new HHS secretary it appears not likely that person will be able to impose meaningful change in the near-term,” the report said. “If we are correct in this view, to fix healthcare, the administration will have to pick a leader with strong congressional ties and a great deal of moral authority who knows healthcare in order to spearhead reform.”

The names floating around as replacements include former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, and John Kitzhaber of Oregon, according to the New York Times. Governors are being considered because of their experience with running state Medicaid programs.

Without a strong-headed health reform leader in the executive branch—as Daschle was thought to be—the responsibility to produce change may fall on Congress’ shoulders. Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the Finance Committee, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, have been working on health reform plans since last November and plan to propose a bill later this year.

Although a congressional bill is likely to be introduced, analysts at Miller Tabak expect push-back from the executive branch: “Although it appeared that the administration was willing to let the congress lead a healthcare reform effort, in contrast to the Clinton effort, given the wrangling over the recent stimulus package the administration will most likely want more of a say in future large-scale legislation.”

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