Appointee adds dash of hope

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WASHINGTON--Industry stakeholders describe Tom Daschle, president-elect Barack Obama’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, as the right man for the job.

“I think he appreciates the value home care adds to the healthcare system,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.
Upon his confirmation, Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, will replace Michael Leavitt, the current secretary of HHS.

Since leaving the Senate in 2004, Daschle has served as an adviser to Obama; authored a book entitled “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis”; and served as an adviser to Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based legal and lobbying firm whose clients include CVS and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

“He has kept up his interest in health care,” said Walt Gorski, vice president of government relations for AAHomecare.

Industry stakeholders who worked with Daschle when he was a senator report he and his staff were “very accessible.”

“He was very open to hearing the concerns of the industry and in learning more about our perspective,” Johnson said.

While he acknowledged the industry buzz surrounding Daschle’s appointment, John Gallagher, vice president of government affairs for The VGM Group, doesn’t think much will change for HME.

“Tom Daschle is going to be looking at this from 10,000 feet up, not down in the weeds with HME,” he said.