Obama’s Proposed HHS Secretary Supported Clinton Health Care Plan as Senator--and Wanted an Even Bigger One

By Matt Hadro | January 5, 2009 | 7:02 PM EST

Health and Human Services Secretary designate Tom Daschle and President-elect Obama. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), President-Elect Barack Obama’s proposed secretary of Health and Human Services, not only voted for Hillary and Bill Clinton’s 1994 government-mandated health-care reform proposal -- he supported an amendment to expand it.
However, even though Daschle voted for the 1993 Health Security Act, he voted against President Bush’s 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit plan, claiming that it misallocated resources and increased administrative costs.
In 1994, Daschle supported an amendment to expand the proposed government-mandated “standard benefits package” in the Health Security Act -- an amendment that the American Conservative Union opposed because it would have included coverage of certain preventive services for pregnant women and their infants. 

Daschle supported the Clinton health-care reform package from its inception.“I see that 1,300 page document, and, I must say, I don’t know that any other bill before the Congress can boast of specificity, that elaborate detail,” he remarked during a Oct. 28, 1993 Senate Finance Committee hearing.
“I think your biggest opponent is the misinformation perpetrated by so many outside groups and others who don’t want to see health care reform passed,” he added.
“We have to achieve universal coverage,” he stated in May of 1994, referring to the legislation during a May 4, 1994 Senate Finance Committee Hearing about health care.
President Clinton’s 1,342-page Health Security Act, which was the creation of the Hillary Clinton-led National Health Care Reform Task Force, was formulated to expand government control of health care, including the creation of a national health board and regional health alliances. It failed to gain support of some Democratic senators – and most Republicans.
Daschle stood against the Bush Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003, however, claiming that the plan left out the needs of many seniors, benefited special interests, would multiply administrative costs – and didn’t go far enough.
“This bill isn’t a drug reform plan, this is a Trojan horse for the collapse of Medicare,” he said. “Does Medicare need to be changed? Of  course. And providing a meaningful prescription drug benefit is probably the single best reform we could enact, because medicine itself has changed. But to those who say ‘We want Medicare to look more like the private sector,’ I say you don’t speak for me with that assertion.”
Daschle also voiced his concern over seniors being “coerced" into HMOs -- and noted that "millions of seniors" would be without drug coverage during some of the year, during debate on the bill, H.R. 1. He also noted that $400 billion for Medicare might not be enough.
 “I don’t challenge the $400 billion,” Daschle said, according to the Congressional Record.
“Frankly, I don’t think that it is adequate to provide a meaningful drug benefit. We have to do better than that,” he said on Nov. 24, 2003, while the bill was being discussed in the Senate.
“What I challenge is why it is we are misallocating so many of the resources within that $400 billion budget pie. That is my concern.”
Daschle warned of future consequences.
“(Y)ou are going to see an exploding cost,” he said, “and you are going to see the misallocation of resources within that $400 billion, away from seniors and to so many other groups that I have to say even the most avid supporters of this legislation would say don’t need it as much.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending for Medicare is expected to increase from 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007 to 9 percent of GDP by 2032.
In 2000, meanwhile, Daschle also voted against an amendment to a bill (H.R. 4577) that would protect Medicare and Social Security surpluses from being spent elsewhere.
S. Amdt. 3689, which the Senate approved in June of that year on a 54-43 vote (with 3 not voting), was intended to “protect the Social Security and Medicare surpluses through strengthened budgetary enforcement mechanisms.”
“If we cannot bring about a better price,” Daschle noted during Senate discussions of H.R. 1, “if we cannot leverage drug prices more effectively through Medicare, who in the world can do it more effectively than the Government itself and Medicare specifically?”