The health insurance and employee benefits communities have had much less experience with Sylvia Mathews Burwell — the new Health and Human Services secretary nominee — than they have had with the outgoing secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.
Sebelius, who formally announced her departure today, had been the insurance commissioner in Kansas, the governor of Kansas, and the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners before she took over at HHS.
But Burwell, who has been director of the Office of Management and Budget since April 2013, also has ties to the insurance community: She was a director both of MetLife Inc. and of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company from early 2004 through early 2013.
President Obama mentioned Burwell’s experience as a MetLife director Friday at the White House, when he introduced her as his choice to succeed Sebelius as the head of HHS.
“She gained first-hand experience into how insurance markets work, and how they can work better for businesses and families alike,” Obama said.
While Burwell was on the MetLife board, MetLife noted that she was a member of the Trilateral Commission.
In documents MetLife described Burwell as someone with “an informed perspective on global financial, business and philanthropic activities and diverse cultural considerations.”
In 2012 and 2013, Burwell served on the board’s investment committee as well as the board’s governance and corporate responsibility committee. While on the investment committee, she must have seen how low interest rates were affecting the company’s long-term disability insurance long-term care insurance lines.