Smooth approval seen for Obama healthcare nominee

Wed Jan 7, 2009 4:38pm EST
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By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When Shirley Hunter reviewed her finances to make sure she could afford to retire in 1999, she never banked on health care costs more than doubling in less than a decade.

Now the 74-year-old former California kindergarten teacher finds herself under financial pressure. Despite taking lodgers to help pay the bills, she worries about losing her home or having to choose between mortgage, food and health insurance.

"I'm on a fixed income. Nothing else is fixed," Hunter said. "I can't afford to travel right now or anything. It's very disappointing to work like I did and then have this happen."

Hunter, who told her story to a community healthcare discussion in Costa Mesa, California, is one of millions of Americans looking for President-elect Barack Obama to make good on his campaign promise to tackle the U.S. healthcare crisis.

Obama's choice to lead the reform effort, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, testifies at his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday -- beginning a process to change the nation's health care that could be one of the most ambitious and expensive undertakings of the Obama presidency.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, a senior member of the committee conducting the hearing, met with Daschle on Tuesday and predicted things would go "very smoothly."

"We all know the enormity of the task at hand, and it is a comfort to know that in Tom Daschle, we'll have a true leader, someone who has navigated these rough waters before," Dodd said in a statement.

The United States spent $7,421 per person on health care in 2007, some 16 percent of Gross Domestic Product, but does worse in many areas of care than other developed countries.   Continued...

<p>President-elect Barack Obama listens to a question from the media following a meeting with members of his future cabinet and economic advisors at his transition office in Washington, January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed</p>