On Tuesday, President Obama announced Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is known for her bipartisan approach to politics and her efforts as a governor in the health care arena. If confirmed, Governor Sebelius has a once in a lifetime opportunity to execute health care reform – a President enjoying positive public opinion, a national sense of urgency, and resources to get the job done.
The President also announced his choice for Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, a former Administrator of HCFA (now CMS) during the Clinton administration who also has extensive experience in the private health care sector. Although this private sector experience has prompted criticism from some, Ms. DeParle’s appointment has drawn praise from both sides of the aisle because, despite her career-long identification with Democrats, DeParle has credibility with Republicans as well. Ms. DeParle is comfortably familiar with Washington and, drawing upon her previous White House, HCFA and Hill experiences, should be able to integrate herself within the White House policy operation easily while also serving as a powerful ally to Governor Sebelius. When it comes to crafting a health reform plan and then actually enacting it, Ms. DeParle’s role is likely to be unique and pivotal.
The President’s choices of Governor Sebelius and Ms. DeParle reflect a commitment to change that is likely to move us forward in our health reform efforts!