Obama names Sebelius as HHS secretary

President Barack Obama today nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services, where she would implement changes that the president plans to reform health care, the administration said in a statement.

As HHS secretary, Sebelius would work with Congress to cut costs, expand access, and improve the quality of health care, the administration said. Obama has said repeatedly that health information technology would be a critical tool in health care reform. The Senate must approve Sebelius’ nomination.

Among her own health care reforms as governor since 2003, Kansans were able to start ordering prescription drugs from certain other countries at lower prices, and she has expanded the number of children from low-income households in state health programs. Sebelius also has experience as a former Kansas state health commission regulator.

“If we are going to help families, save businesses, and improve the long-term economic health of our nation, we must realize that fixing what’s wrong with our health care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative,” Obama said as he announced Democrat Sebelius’ nomination.

As HHS secretary, Sebelius would have responsibility for public health, food safety, and the administration of the Medicare program for the elderly and the Medicaid program to provide health care for low-income households. HHS also oversees a number of efforts promoting the adoption of health IT through grants and contracts awarded through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Last week, the administration’s budget proposal set out the president’s plan for health care reform. Under the proposal, a reserve fund of more than $630 million over 10 years would finance reform of the way the nation delivers health care to reduce costs and expand coverage. The administration said it would pay for the reserve fund through taxes on the wealthy and savings proposals that promote efficiency and accountability and target incentives toward improved quality

Obama also chose Nancy-Ann DeParle, a consultant on health care and regulatory issues, to serve as counselor to the president and director of the White House Office for Health Reform. DeParle is a former commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee. During the Clinton administration, she handled budget matters for federal health care programs and managed Medicare and Medicaid.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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