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Obama Taps Sebelius as HHS Head

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President Obama has announced his new pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The candidate, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, served two terms as a state insurance commissioner, and was previously the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Sebelius is the second candidate to be nominated for the position. Obama’s initial choice, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew his nomination after it was discovered that he owed more than $140,000 in back taxes.

The president praised Sebelius’ career, applauding her for drafting a proposed national bill of rights for patients, refusing campaign contributions from insurance companies, and blocking a takeover of Kansas’s largest insurer, a move that helped keep premiums low.

Obama also heralded Sebelius’ experience in coming to bipartisan solutions for reform.

In order to fix the health care system, Obama said it is necessary to have “a commitment to reform that focuses not on Democrat ideas or Republican ideas, but on ideas that work to rein in costs, expand access, and improve the quality of health care for the American people.”

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement, “Governor Sebelius is the right person to move the president’s health care agenda forward. She is a proven leader with extensive knowledge of health care issues and a long history of working effectively across the political aisle.”

Obama also announced his selection for director of the White House Office for Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle. DeParle is a commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services under Gov. Ned McWherter.

“As a former CMS administrator, Nancy-Ann DeParle brings considerable experience and a strong track record working on all health care issues facing the nation,” Ignagni said.

On Thursday, the president will hold a health care forum at the White House to be attended by “business and labor, doctors and insurers, Democrats and Republicans, as well as ordinary Americans from all walks of life.”

Additionally, the president said that his economic stimulus package will allot $155 million toward 126 new health centers through the country. The centers will provide primary care and preventive services to people with no health insurance.

The health centers will “relieve the burden on emergency rooms across the country, which have become primary care clinics for too many who lack coverage, often at taxpayer expense,” Obama said. “This action will create thousands of new jobs, help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 low-income Americans across the country, and take another important step toward affordable, accessible health care for all.”

To read more about how the Obama administration’s plans may affect your practice, click here.