BREAKING: Tom Daschle Tapped As HHS Secretary (UPDATED X2)

From Jed Lewison at Daily Kos:

According to CNN’s Ed Henry, Tom Daschle will serve not just as Secretary of Health and Human Services, but will also be the administration’s point person on the push for a universal health care plan.

Daschle was one of Obama’s political mentors, so it isn’t surprising that he was offered a major role in the administration.

All those connections Daschle built as Minority Leader should come in handy during the upcoming push for universal health care.

UPDATE: There are some positive signs from Daschle on health care:

Incremental change in our system is no longer a viable option. Instead we need comprehensive reform. In growing numbers the American people are demanding that we do something. Our goal should be to build what current and retired members of Congress have today, and make that available for all Americans.

And some of his ideas on health care:

Expand the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), or create a group purchasing pool like it: Participants could choose their own provider and would have the security of knowing they could never lose their coverage. Employers could let their employers get coverage through a FEHBP plan only if they enrolled all of their workers, not just ones with health problems. The FEHP pool would also include a government-run insurance program modeled after Medicare and would have tremendous clout to bargain for the lowest prices from providers and push them to improve quality of care.

Subsidize coverage for those who need it: The government would provide financial help on a sliding scale so nobody has to pay more than a certain percentage of their income for health insurance. Administered as a refundable tax credit, this protection would apply to employer-based health insurance as well as private insurance obtained through the pool.

Strengthen Medicaid: Simplify and extend Medicaid to cover everyone below a certain income level. The federal government should pick up the tab for this expansion, and ensure that states don’t’ cut off people when the budget gets tight.

Concentrate on the value of care: Strive to get more for our health care money by promoting research that compares drugs and treatments to determine which ones deliver the best bang for the buck. Daschle also proposes promoting prevention that would reduce the number of chronic conditions.

Improve health care infrastructure Adopt health information technology to lower expenses and allows rural residents to connect electronically with medical providers. Increase the number of community health centers and government-funded clinics that provide basic care for the poor and uninsured.

UPDATE II: A few other appointments:

David Axelrod was officially named Senior Advisor to the President today, according to a press release issued by the Obama-Biden Transition Team.

Other key staff appointments include Lisa Brown as Staff Secretary, Greg Craig as White House Counsel, and Chris Lu as Cabinet Secretary.