Daschle withdrawal could hold up healthcare reform efforts

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A wrench was thrown into President Obama’s healthcare reform goals today after Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. It was presumably over criticism regarding his failure to pay back taxes as well as potential conflicts of interest.

Even though he had not yet been confirmed, it seems that some big plans already have been dashed. A widely praised pick for the top job at HHS, Daschle was also slated to assume the role as federal health czar. And he and the president had called on Americans to contribute their ideas for healthcare reform through citizen meetings and posts to the administration's transition Web site, change.gov. Daschle, you may recall, was rumored to be one of Obama’s first selections for a department secretary.

Not only does Daschle’s withdrawal leave a gaping hole at the top of the department, but it throws into question the ability of the president to fulfill his objective of healthcare reform in his first 100 days in office.

Obama has pledged to tackle the high cost of healthcare for the middle class. The two may not seem linked, but a setback for healthcare reform inevitably would be a loss for long-term care. The longer it takes to tackle universal healthcare coverage, the longer it will take to address a new payment system for long-term care. (It is worth noting that both major long-term care associations threw their weight behind Daschle’s nomination.)

It’s important now to appoint a capable secretary who is well versed in healthcare. Unfortunately, it’s got to be soon. Time is already ticking on the 100-day period and Obama’s honeymoon.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.