Obama sets up formal office for healthcare reform

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 9, 2009 10:21am EDT

1 of 2. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius alongside Nancy-Ann DeParle, the new Director of the White House Office for Health Reform, in the East Room of the White House, March 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama set up an executive office for healthcare reform at the White House on Wednesday, saying the overhaul was one of the biggest priorities for the first year of his presidency.

Obama issued an executive order that says the U.S. healthcare system "suffers from serious and pervasive problems."

The White House Office of Health Reform (Health Reform Office) will help the executive branch steer "the federal government's comprehensive effort to improve access to health care, the quality of such care, and the sustainability of the health care system," the order reads.

It also says the Secretary of Health and Human Services will create an Office of Health Reform to work with the White House office.

Obama has nominated former Clinton administration health official Nancy-Ann DeParle to lead the White House office. His nominee for Health and Human Services secretary is Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

The new office will help ensure that policymakers across the executive branch work toward Obama's healthcare agenda, the order reads.

U.S. government economists predict that public and private health spending will hit $2.5 trillion this year, taking up a 17.6 percent share of gross domestic product.

Yet studies suggest Americans get poorer care than people in other industrialized countries that have national healthcare plans, and 46 million Americans have no health insurance at all.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Xavier Briand)


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