White House Establishes Office for Health Reform

Stating that "[r]eforming the health care system is a key goal of my Administration," President Obama recently signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Office of Health Reform, the principal role of which will be to "provide leadership within the executive branch in establishing policies, priorities, and objectives for 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." As previously announced by the President, the White House Office of Health Reform will be headed by former CMS Administrator, Nancy-Ann DeParle.

Enumerated within the Executive Order are ten core functions for the Office of Health Reform, that include integrating the administration’s health reform agenda across the federal government and working with members of Congress, executive departments and agencies to eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic barriers "that impede effective delivery of efficient and high quality health care," and with state and local policymakers to expand coverage, improve quality and efficiency and slow the growth of health costs. The Executive Order also directs the Secretary of HHS to establish an Office of Health Reform within HHS to coordinate closely with its White House counterpart.

Congressional Budget Blueprint Provides for Reform

Earlier this month, both Houses of Congress approved their respective budget resolutions—each of which provides reserve funds for health reform but leaves the specifics for financing reform to the committees of jurisdiction. The budget resolutions now go to Conference Committee where lawmakers will begin the work of crafting a compromise resolution. One of the central differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions is whether to include instructions for a procedural option—called "reconciliation"—that could both limit debate and enable health reform to pass the Senate with a simple majority. The House budget plan provides instructions for reconciliation, but the Senate version does not.