Obama Taps Sebelius, DeParle To Lead Health Care System Overhaul
On Monday, President Obama officially nominated Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as HHS secretary and named Nancy-Ann DeParle as director of the White House Office for Health Reform, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Superville, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/3).
Sebelius served as Kansas' insurance commissioner before becoming governor.
DeParle previously served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services and worked in the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration (Fletcher, Washington Post, 3/3). Also during the Clinton administration, DeParle oversaw Medicaid and Medicare as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, now CMS (Pear/Zeleny, New York Times, 3/3). DeParle currently is the managing director of private equity firm CCMP Capital, and she serves on the boards of several companies related to health care. A White House spokesperson said that DeParle is in the process of resigning those posts.
The Washington Post reports that "Sebelius and DeParle will be charged with helping to craft and sell the administration's ambitious effort to revamp the nation's health care system and extend access to the 46 million people in the country who lack coverage, while attempting to rein in runaway costs" (Washington Post, 3/3).
According to the Tennessean, while Sebelius will "lead the day-to-day administration of Medicare, Medicaid and other federal social and health care programs," DeParle "will be the president's health policy counselor" (Brooks, Tennessean, 3/3).
Roll Call reports that DeParle will act asÂ "the chief interface with lawmakers in the House and Senate" (Koffler, Roll Call, 3/2). Sebelius' nomination is subject to Senate approval (Goldstein, Kansas City Star, 3/2).
After she was nominated, Sebelius said to Obama, "I share your belief that we can't fix the economy without fixing health care." She said, "The work won't be easy, but bringing about real change rarely is" (Washington Post, 3/3).
Obama on Monday said that he would look to Sebelius to help bridge a partisan divide that could hinder health reform efforts. He said, "There's no easy formula for fixing our health care system," adding, "What is required, however, is a commitment to reform that focuses not on Democratic ideas or Republican ideas" (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 3/3). Obama said that Sebelius "knows health care inside and out" and has "been on the front lines of our health care crisis" (McClatchy/Arizona Daily Star, 3/3). He called DeParle "one of the nation's leading experts on health care and regulatory issues" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/2).
In a statement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has a well-earned reputation of working across the political aisle," adding, "By picking Gov. Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama is showing that he will take a strong and balanced approach to reforming our nation's health care system -- and that kind of approach is exactly what we need to ensure more Americans and Californians have access to affordable health coverage and that we work to slow the rising costs of health care" (Office of the Governor release, 3/1).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the choice of Sebelius was well-received among lawmakers. He said, "She is an extraordinary leader who does not let partisanship get in the way of doing what is right, and Americans will benefit from Sebelius' many years of experience as her state's governor and insurance commissioner," adding, "I look forward to confirming Governor Sebelius as quickly as possible" (Washington Post, 3/3).
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said DeParle's "extensive experience with health and budget issues, her relationships on the Hill and her relationships within the administration make her a great pick to head the new White House Office for Health Reform" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/2).
- Kansas City Star : Sebelius "has insisted for years that expanding access to medical care and containing soaring costs are the twin pillars of health care reform," and as HHS secretary, she would "have the chance to put her convictions to work on a much larger stage," according to a Star editorial. The editorial states, "The job is a good fit for Sebelius, a wonkish (and we mean this as a compliment) Democrat who has enjoyed political success in an overwhelmingly Republican state." According to the editorial, Sebelius "relishes an executive role and believes in finding efficiencies and in streamlining bureaucracies -- traits that should help with running the mammoth" HHS -- and as a "fitness buff, Sebelius can be expected to use a national pulpit to advocate for healthy habits." The editorial concludes, "With the support of President Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress, she may find traction for her belief that all citizens deserve quality health care delivered in a cost-effective manner," which "would be good for America" (Kansas City Star, 3/1).
- San Francisco Chronicle : Obama "is moving swiftly and stealthily to change the nature of health care in America" through a "fascinating" strategy -- "rather than assembling a reform package all at once, he's doing it in piecemeal fashion," according to a Chronicle editorial. The editorial states, "If all goes well, the American health care system will slowly transfer into something more universal and less costly for its patients -- slowly so that no one has a chance to panic and so the Obama administration has enough time to smooth over any bumps in the road." However, "[i]f it doesn't go well, the slow rollout could give more time to industry groups aiming to shoot down everything they hate and nervous politicians in Congress who are already worried about the necessary risk that accompanies big changes," according to the editorial. The editorial states, "We're cautiously optimistic that the former scenario is happening for the moment" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/2).
- San Jose Mercury News : Obama "is not one to back down from a challenge," but he might "have to settle for accomplishing" his goal to expand health insurance to all residents "in pieces," a Mercury News editorial states. The editorial states, "Obama has the essentials right," as he "wants universal coverage through a mix of private and public insurance programs" and "wants health insurance to be portable and affordable for all," but the "bigger challenges will be finding ways to pay for new programs and cut costs." According to the editorial, "Republicans are already objecting to Obama's proposal," and "Obama may be over-promising on what he can deliver with his budget plan, which also calls for substantial deficit reductions and expanded education programs." The editorial states, "Health care experts are pessimistic about Obama's chances of success," but "Obama has a history of overcoming long odds to achieve his goals" (San Jose Mercury News, 2/28).
- American Public Media's "Marketplace" on Monday reported on the nomination of Sebelius as HHS secretary. The segment includes comments from commentator and economist Edward Miguel (Ryssdal, "Marketplace," American Public Media, 3/2).
- CNN's "American Morning" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination (Malveaux, "American Morning," CNN, 3/2). A transcript of the segment is available online.
- CNN's "The Situation Room" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination and the appointment of DeParle as director of the White House Office for Health Reform. The segment includes comments from AARP national spokesperson Jim Dau, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (Lothian, "The Situation Room," CNN, 3/2). A transcript of the segment is available online.
- NBC's "Nightly News" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination (Williams, "Nightly News," NBC, 3/2).
- NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination and the DeParle appointment. The segment includes comments from Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union; Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health; Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, and Stark (D-Calif.) (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 3/2).
- NPR's "Day to Day" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination and the DeParle appointment (Brand/Elving, "Day to Day," NPR, 3/2).
- NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday reported on the Sebelius nomination and the White House summit on health care scheduled for later this week (Liasson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/3).
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Monday reported on the Sebelius nomination and the DeParle appointment. The segment includes comments from Burdett Loomis, a professor of political science at the University of Kansas and a former employee of the Sebelius administration, and Len Nichols, director of the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation and a former senior adviser for health policy at OMB under DeParle (Bowser/Woodruff, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 3/2).
- WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show" on Tuesday reported on the health care proposals announced by Obama. The segment includes comments from Jared Bernstein, chief economist and economic policy adviser for Vice President Biden and executive director of the Middle Class Task Force that Biden chairs; Julie Rovner, a health policy correspondent for NPR; Ralph Neas, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care; and Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 3/2).