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February 21, 2009

Czar 44, where are you? White House may nix health czar post

The White House may not appoint a health czar after all, Politico reports.

The Health Reform Office was a newly created bureacracy, custom-designed for Barack Obama's trusted ally and political mentor, former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Obama's plan was to give Daschle two jobs, Secretary of Health and Human Services and head of the Health Reform Office. Czar Daschle was to be Obama's point man in Congress on health care reform.

However, Daschle had to bow out earlier this month when it was revealed that he hadn't paid taxes on tens of thousands of dollars worth of perks he received during his second career as a crypto-lobbyist for the health care and student loan industries.

Politico notes that the deputy director of the Health Reform Office, Jeanne Lambrew, has already been reassigned to HHS to help administer the health-related spending in the stimulus package--which may be a sign that the White House intends to pull the plug on the Health Reform Office altogether.

If the Health Reform Office survives, the top job will probably remain unfilled until after Obama names a Secretary of Health and Human Services. It does not appear that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Howard Dean, or any of the favorites to lead HHS are being considered for the dual role of health czar.

Perhaps the health czar post lost its raison d'etre when Daschle dropped out.

Update: Ezra Klein argues convincingly that the Health Reform Office probably isn't worth much without Daschle. The health czar was supposed to be the direct line to the White House. When Clinton tackled healthcare reform, outreach to Congress was hampered by persistent ambiguity about who really spoke for the president. Every executive branch bureaucrat seeking to influence Congress will imply that her agenda is the president's agenda.

The health czar was supposed to solve all that by serving as a single authoritative liason. Daschle was close enough to Obama to be a credible emissary to Congress. As Ezra notes, there already a number of top healthcare officials with close ties to the president. If Kathleen Sebelius is chosen to lead HHS, there will be one more. Unless the White House fills the job with someone whose connection to the president is as strong as Daschle's. the health czar would just be one more voice claiming to speak for the president.


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Thank God.

I am really glad you are hosting this vital discussion, one which will in due course potentially improve the health of every American, if we could only restructure and revamp the FDA and get rid of all of the corporate cronyism and corruption of the regulatory processes in general there, which I believe began with Rumsfeld having forced aspartame through the FDA approval process, despite 15 prior years of FDA Chemists saying " Formaldehyde? Methanol? No Way!"


Resolutions asking the FDA to rescind aspartame's approval are currently being considered by the NM Senate and the Hawaii Senate. Eventually, the new FDA Commissioner will have to take action, especially if we can connect to other state legislatures who have the intelligence to protect consumers' health. I am coordinating this, and look forward to your reply, if you are able to send one email or two to your state senator and the Chairman of the Health Committee in either House in your state.

Thanks, Stephen Fox
Consumer and Political Editor NM Sun News

I don't have anything substantive to contribute; I just wanted to say that this post's title is awesome.

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