Monday, March 02, 2009

Obama Picks Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius The Associated Press' Richard Alonzo-Zaldivar reports that President Barack Obama has chosen Kansas Governor and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is a former state insurance commissioner who is knowledgeable about the complexities surrounding health care and insurance issues and is known for her ability to reach across the aisle to accomplish goals. 

However, she does not have as many connections in Congress as former nominee Tom Daschle. As a result, Obama is also planning to name a seperate person as the head of a White House health care reform department; Daschle was set to fill both posts simultaneously. She also has to be confirmed by Congress, which seems likely due to the support she has recieved from both consumer advocates and the health insurance industry.

HHS is responsible for both federal government-sponsored health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid. Part of Sebelius' job will be to solve the problem of Medicare's dwindling finances and inefficiency while still expanding health care coverage to more Americans.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Daschle Out For Obama Administration's Health Care Reform Position

Recently, Tom Daschle took himself out of consideration as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration. Tthe president’s plans to overhaul the country’s health care system could lose momentum and be significantly delayed.  Daschle was a clear health care expert and carried quite a bit of political influence as a former Senate majority leader.  The current health care reform plan was built around Daschle steering the ship.

Many supports say that the sudden change will not derail the efforts for health care reform, but Daschle is widely recognized as being an authority regarding health and health reform issues.

The leading candidates to fill the position are:

  • Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius;
  • U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut;
  • Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration;
  • and former Democratic Party chief and Doctor Howard Dean.
It seems like a good list, but which one would do the best job? Maybe Obama will choose someone else entirely.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle: Too Close to Health Care Industry?

Tom Daschle, the Obama administration's nominee for secretary of health and human services, has ties to the health care industry he is trying to reform, says an editorial in the New York Times. He is knowledgeable and has written a book about the topic. Many former senators have used their experience and clout in Congress to work as an advisor in the private sector.

Despite not being a registered lobbyist, he has been paid for policy advice by UnitedHealth Group. As a Mayo Clinic trustee, the former Senate majority leader opposed a federal loan that would locate a railroad near their headquarters (it was later rejected). In addition, his speaking engagements after leaving the Senate have included appearances in front of pharmacy boards and health insurance plans.

While there is no indication that these past connections would bias his decisions, the Times believes Daschle is too close to the health insurance industry to be an effective leader on the health care issues promoted by the administration, including the expansion of universal health care coverage.

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