NU Online News Service, Dec. 14, 2004, 9:32 a.m. EST

President Bush is nominating the former governor of Utah to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.[@@]

The nominee, Michael Leavitt, has been serving as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for about a year.

If Leavitt wins confirmation from the Senate, he would succeed Tommy Thompson, who is resigning from HHS after 4 years.

Leavitt was elected to 3 terms as governor of Utah. While serving as governor of Utah, one of his accomplishments was participating in the national effort to expand children’s health insurance programs.

Bush noted at a press conference that one of Leavitt’s responsibilities as HHS secretary would be supervising major changes to Medicare.

“In this new term, we will implement the first-ever prescription drug benefit for seniors under Medicare,” Bush said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We will expand federal cooperation with faith-based groups that provide essential services, such as counseling and treatment for addictions.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, put out a statement welcoming Leavitt’s nomination and praising his work in Utah on programs that combined public and private resources.

“Health insurance plans look forward to working with him as HHS secretary on similar efforts at the national level,” AHIP President Karen Ignagni says in the statement.