Federal healthcare posts to be filled

March 13, 2009

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius fills HHS secretary post, while Tennessee health commissioner Nancy Ann DeParle fills director of the White House Office for Health Reform.

President Obama nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for the post of secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and previous Tennessee health commissioner Nancy Ann DeParle for the post of director of the White House Office for Health Reform.

Sebelius was Obama’s second choice after Tom Daschle, who withdrew from the nomination after it was revealed that he owed more than $120,000 in federal taxes. Daschle had been pegged to run both HHS and the White House Office for Health Reform.

DeParle was previously Tennessee’s commissioner of the Department of Human Services, handling budgets for Medicare and Medicaid in the Clinton administration.In a press conference, Obama stated, “Healthcare reform that reduces costs while expanding coverage is no longer just a dream we hope to achieve; it’s a necessity we have to achieve.”

Andrea Pennington, MD, chief medical officer, Logical Images, based in Rochester, NY, and former medical director for Discovery Health Channel, believes that Sebelius brings significant experience and political savvy to the table.

“To her credit, her managerial expertise as Governor for Kansas has afforded her valuable direct experience with Medicaid,” Dr. Pennington says. “Though she hasn't always enjoyed success while in office-she failed to get health coverage extended to children through age five and was unsuccessful in passing a cigarette tax increase for the expansion of Medicaid-most are confident that she will do well working with President Obama due to a history of bipartisan administration. And, once she effectively takes the helm, I believe she will quickly dispel myths about being the ‘back-up’ plan since Daschle’s withdrawal from consideration.”

Managed care executives can expect that as Secretary of HHS, Sebelius will reinforce Obama’s accountability mantra. “Her record shows that she’s got the guts to fight for the underdog and will root out waste and mismanagement,” Dr. Pennington says.

Elizabeth Hall, vice president, public policy for WellPoint says that WellPoint looks forward to working with the two nominees “and will continue to work with the Congress and the administration to improve healthcare quality, control health spending and build on the current private-public system to put America on the path to healthcare coverage for everyone.”