Kathleen Sebelius is the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services in Obama's Cabinet. She has served as Kansas' governor since 2002 and before that was insurance commissioner and a state representative.
Washington The Obama White House continues to work on finding a replacement nominee for Tom Daschle to be health and human services secretary. The leading contender remains Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who seems somewhat hesitant about making the move to D.C.
The administration is also considering Nancy-Ann DeParle, former administrator of the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid and a former honcho at the Office of Management and Budget; and Jack Lew, who has been confirmed as deputy secretary of state for management. Lew worked on health care reform in the Clinton administration. There is a growing view that it may take two people to handle the twin roles Daschle had negotiated (a West Wing office plus the Cabinet spot).
Sebelius, 60, was a Kansas House member and served two terms as the state’s elected insurance commissioner before winning the first of her two terms as governor in 2002. Her supporters say her tenure in the insurance post allowed her to develop expertise on health care issues.
“She knows these issues,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for an insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans. “She has a history of working across the political aisle. I think she would be a good choice.”
Rother said: “Only Tom Daschle would have been her equal.”
Since Sebelius became governor, the state has expanded cancer screenings, allowed more residents to keep their health insurance up to 18 months after leaving their jobs and granted income tax deductions to help some lower their insurance costs. It also has increased funding for “safety net” clinics and expanded state medical and dental coverage for pregnant women.
“Most of the health care reform that happens will have to be federal reform,” said Kansas Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican. “The reforms that we’ve done in Kansas in recent years have been incremental progress. By definition, that’s what happens at the state level.”
But Sebelius has sought more sweeping reforms. She opened her second term in January 2007 by calling on legislators to draft a plan to bring universal health coverage to Kansas. Last year, she backed a 21-point from plan from a state health care agency to phase in $330 million in new spending on health care initiatives over five years.
Legislators never acted on her call for universal coverage, and last year’s package gained little support because it required tobacco tax increases.