Leaks on the Internet and a New York Times article yesterday report that President-elect Obama is considering former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be his health care czar. While I have much respect for the contributions of the long time public servant and have no doubt that he has knowledge on health care, Daschle represents Washington’s business as usual and is the wrong selection for the job.
In an undertaking that necessitates a non-political and non-partisan approach, Daschle’s former and current roles place him as a Washington insider and lobbyist. The South Dakotan served in the Senate in a partisan role as both majority and minority leader and his reentrance onto the scene may only serve to draw quick fire and roadblocks from Republicans. Since leaving the Senate, Daschle continues to work in the capital as an unofficial lobbyist for a K street firm consulting health care organizations. He represents that which the electorate said on November 4th it wants to leave behind.
Our health care czar must not be another Washington lawyer-politician, but should be an outsider that has cared for patients at the bedside or in the exam room. The health care czar must not consider Washington, D.C. to be the center of the universe, but hold the average American patient as the central figure. As an old medical student dean admonished me as a first year medical student, “Remember the centrality of the patient and you will not go wrong.” A relative outsider to The Beltway that knows health care at its most basic level will engender trust and validate the efforts of any broad sweeping reform plans as not just another Washington political game. At risk of sounding somewhat of a broken record here, but John Kitzhaber is the logical choice for this post.
cross posted from The Country Doc Report