SNAP ANALYSIS: Daschle pullout may delay Obama health plan

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 3, 2009 6:26pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The withdrawal of President Barack Obama's choice to lead both the Department of Health and Human Services and a new White House Office on Health Reform could set back plans to revamp the U.S. healthcare system.

Here are some possible implications of Tom Daschle's withdrawal, prompted by questions over his taxes:

* Obama had made affordable healthcare coverage a cornerstone of his election campaign, and many saw the appointment of Daschle, a former leading senator, as a strength for negotiating with Congress. Obama will have to find another nominee with the skills to win consensus among lawmakers.

* With no clear leader on the issue, efforts to launch changes in health care may be delayed. The White House insisted Daschle's withdrawal would not slow U.S. health reform, but Obama will be challenged to find another candidate with the same background. Besides his Congressional experiences, Daschle is author of a book, "Critical: What We can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, in which he argues the United States cannot neglect the issue any longer because it weakens U.S. competitiveness.

* It could delay the administration's picks for other key agencies that fall under Health and Human Services, such as U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

* Congress already has made headway on some aspects of health reform such as expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP and inclusion of $87 billion to help states pay for Medicaid as part of an economic stimulus package. But Daschle was seen as critical for pushing through larger efforts, including helping the 46 million people without health insurance.

* Jeanne Lambrew, chosen to be deputy director of the White House Office of Health Reform, could have a more high-profile role and greater responsibilities. But she is also closely linked with Daschle, having co-authored his book.

* Concerns were also raised about Daschle's previous consulting work in which he earned millions of dollars speaking to those in the healthcare industry, which he would have then overseen as a cabinet secretary.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Maggie Fox and Howard Goller)

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