Monday, March 2, 2009

Obama Nominates Sebelius to HHS, Appoints DeParle Head of White House Health Office

President Obama has nominated Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to become Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius replaces former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), who withdrew his name from consideration when questions arose over unpaid taxes.

Prior to serving as governor, Sebelius was the state’s insurance commissioner for eight years. As governor, she was praised for her ability to work with the heavily Republican legislature to address Medicare fraud and expand access to health care. She also gained national attention with her ability to win a second term as a Democratic governor in a Republican state.

Sebelius was an early supporter of Obama’s presidential campaign and was widely speculated as his possible running mate. She was originally considered for a Cabinet post in December, but withdrew her name in order to focus on the budget shortfall in Kansas.

Opposition to her nomination has come mainly from anti-abortion groups that believe Sebelius, who vetoed reproductive clinic restrictions as governor, may expand abortion rights in her role as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Obama will not appoint Sebelius to head the new White House Office of Health Reform. Obama had originally intended to appoint Daschle to both the HHS and White House posts. Nancy-Ann DeParle has been selected to serve in the White House office. DeParle was commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services and was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, what is now known as CMS, under President Clinton. As the White House “health czar,” DeParle will be in charge of the President’s $634 billion initiative to expand and reform the current health care system.

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