US President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday named former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a leading advocate for health care reform, to be his Health Secretary.
Speaking at a press conference in Chicago, Obama said Daschle would also oversee the new White House Office of Health Reform.
Jeanne Lambrew would serve as the Deputy to Daschle in that office, he added.
Obama described Daschle as "one of the foremost" experts on the issue, and noted a book Daschle co-authored with Lambrew on health care reform titled "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis."
"Tom brings more than just great expertise. Tom is the original no-drama guy, speaking softly but leading boldly," the President-elect said.
Daschle, who is in the health care advisory group of Obama's transition team, said he plans to write the health care plan that Obama would submit to Congress next year.
Obama made it clear that despite the current economic turmoil, health care reform must be addressed.
"Let's be clear, if we want to overcome our economic challenge, we must overcome our health care challenge," he said.
He was echoed by Daschle.
"It is a great honour to be nominated to work on an issue that is so close to my heart," Daschle said, adding that fixing health-care is the "largest domestic policy challenge."
"Growing health care costs are unsustainable and the plight of the uninsured is unconscionable," he said.
Daschle believed that reforming health-care and containing costs would help the economy.
The Department of Health and Human Services can "play a strong role" in tackling the challenge, he said.
The goal of the reform would be to make health care "as affordable and as available as it is innovative," said Daschle.
In the book "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis," he pushed for universal health care coverage to reach 46 million uninsured Americans by expanding the federal employee health benefits programme to include private employer plans together with Medicaid and Medicare.
Most Republicans oppose any such plan, saying it would give too much power to the government. They've also questioned Daschle's recent work for a Washington lobbying firm.
Even before his nomination, Daschle has been helping Obama to lay down the groundwork for health care reform.
His Internet site www.change.gov asks people to submit ideas for changing the costly and inefficient health care system that leaves tens of millions uninsured.
During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged to bring health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans and spend about 50 billion dollars to make US health records electronic.
Surveys showed that US voters took health care reform as their third biggest concern after the economy and the Iraq war.
The United States now spends more on health care than any other developed nation, yet it still has some 47 million people without health insurance.
US health care costs now account for about 16 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, or 2.3 trillion dollars, a proportion projected to grow to 20 per cent or four trillion dollars by 2015.