President-elect Barack Obama has tapped former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be his secretary of health, the Associated Press is reporting.

The soft-spoken Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat who served in the Senate from 1986 until his surprising defeat in 2004, urged Obama to make a run for the White House and was a close adviser during his campaign. He heads Obama's healthcare policy group and penned a book published in February, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis. Daschle argues in the book that the U.S. must make healthcare available to everyone; an estimated 47 million Americans have no health coverage, including about nine million children.

Daschle, 60, has proposed creating a Federal Health Board that would function similarly to the Federal Reserve System as a kind of dispassionate enforcer of health policy. He has also suggested merging employer-based plans, Medicaid and Medicare with an expanded Federal Employee Health Benefits Program that would cover all.

Daschle fought hard in 1994 for then-President Bill Clinton's health-reform plan, which would have made coverage universal.

During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would create a National Health Insurance Exchange that would help individuals and small businesses buy insurance policies. He also said all kids would have coverage, and that he would expand Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Image of Tom Daschle/U.S. Senate via WikiCommons