The strategy begins with giving people the chance to highlight their concerns and experiences. Daschle invited people around the nation to hold what amounts to house parties from Dec. 15-31. Obama's transition team will gather the information from those meetings and post the material on its Web site, http://change.gov.
By asking anybody and everybody to share their health care experiences, Daschle is confronting one of the major criticisms of 15 years ago: that the effort to craft former President Bill Clinton's plan for universal coverage was too secretive.
"We have to make this as inclusive a process as possible," Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, said in a speech in Denver. It was his first since Democratic officials confirmed last month he was offered the job as health and human services secretary and that he had accepted.
"They are clearly trying to do it differently and help the American public see the case for reform in human terms," said John Rother, public policy director for the advocacy group AARP.
Daschle maintains the efforts to bring about universal health coverage in the first two years of the Clinton presidency took too long. In a book published this year, he urged the next president to act immediately to capitalize on the good will that greets any incoming administration. His speech and recent behind-the-scenes meetings with lawmakers and consumer groups address that point.
"We need to be on the offense," Daschle said.
He cited other lessons, too. This time around, lawmakers cannot try to address every detail when it comes to legislation.
"Details kill," Daschle said. "If we get too far into the weeds, if we produce a 1,500- or 1,600-page bill, we're going to get hung up on all the details and we're never going to get to the principles."
Once Congress does take up a health plan, it also can't divert attention to other subjects, he said.
"Let's not put it down, let it lie there for months and months and figure out a time when we can get back to it later," Daschle said at a Colorado Health Care Summit organized by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.