U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has named former Senator Tom Daschle as his secretary of Health and Human Services.

During a news conference in Chicago Thursday, the president-elect said Daschle will also head a new White House Office of Health Reform.

Mr. Obama said in his dual role, Daschle will lead efforts to craft and implement a new plan to make health care accessible and affordable to all Americans.  

He said Daschle is a health care expert with a record of working across party lines.

Daschle, a Democrat, spent more than 26 years in Congress, 10 of those years as the Senate majority leader.  Daschle also authored a book on the U.S. healthcare system.

Daschle told reporters the cost of the current health care system is "unsustainable" and the plight of the uninsured "unconscionable."  The former senator from South Dakota said modernizing the system will also help pull the U.S. economy out of a tailspin.

Mr. Obama also announced that Jeanne Lambrew will serve as deputy director of the new White House Office of Health Reform.  He praised Lambrew as an expert with broad experience who knows how to build consensus.

Currently, about 45 million Americans have no health insurance