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Obama kicks off health care week with two nominations

By Dave Cook / March 2, 2009

President Obama nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary.

Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

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President Obama kicked off a week focused on health policy by naming two top officials to help with his goal of revamping the way health care is delivered in the United States.

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The President nominated Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and Nancy-Ann DeParle to be Counselor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

Second choices

The two appointees are his second choice for their positions. Obama had nominated former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for both jobs. Mr. Daschle withdrew after a storm of controversy arose over his failure to promptly pay $128,000 in taxes.

The roll out of the health policy nominees was accompanied by the release of $155 million authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will support 126 new health care centers. Obama said the centers will “help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 Americans across the country who wouldn’t have access to health care without these centers.”

Coming next: health policy summit

On Thursday, the President will host a White House summit on health care policy, along the lines of the fiscal policy summit he held last week. Invitees to the health summit include members of Congress and representatives of the health care and insurance industries.

Governor Sebelius is the Democratic governor of a Republican state and served two terms as the state’s insurance commissioner. The daughter of former Ohio Governor John Gilligan, she has pushed for health care reform in her state but often been blocked by the legislature.

A Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights, Sebelius’ nomination is controversial among right to life groups.

Nancy-Ann DeParle was commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee. During the Clinton Administration she ran the federal agency that manages Medicare and Medicaid.

A moral and fiscal imperative

Obama sees fixing health care as crucial to getting the government’s financial house in order. ‘We must realize that fixing what’s wrong with our health care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative,” the President said in announcing today’s two appointments.