Cast of Characters
Nancy-Ann DeParle and Kathleen Sebelius Announced to Lead Obama Health Effort
Update 1:50 p.m.
By Michael Fletcher
President Obama today named Nancy-Ann DeParle to be the director of the White House Office for Health Reform.
Obama named DeParle to the post during an East Room ceremony this afternoon, where he also formally named Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his secretary of health and human services.
Together, Sebelius and DeParle will be charged with helping to craft and sell the administration's ambitious effort to revamp the nation's health care system to both extend access and rein in runaway costs. In his remarks, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to push ahead on the initiative, despite objections from some Republicans and others who say that it will be too costly, especially given the nation's other fiscal problems.
"I didn't come to Washington to take the easy route," he said, adding that health care reform poses a crucial fiscal challenge to the country. On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to host a White House summit on health care that is intended to bring together a wide range of constituencies -- from drug companies to doctor -- who have a large stake in reform.
"I share your passion and personal commitment to health care reform," Sebelius said to Obama after she was nominated. "We can't fix the economy without fixing health care."
Among those who flanked Obama during the ceremony were former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole (R) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), symbolizing her reputation for working well across partisan lines.
But there were limits. As governor, Sebelius tried twice to dramatically expand access to health care in Kansas, but her efforts were largely thwarted by that state's Republican-led legislature. Still, she was able to lower prescription costs for many people in Kansas and extend coverage to tens of thousands of children from low-income families.
DeParle was previously commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee, and during the Clinton administration she oversaw Medicare and Medicaid as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration.
The critical health posts were filled after former Sen. Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle withdrew from consideration for both jobs last month after acknowledging that he had failed to pay $128,000 in taxes until after he was nominated by Obama.
"If we are going to help families, save businesses, and improve the long-term economic health of our nation, we must realize that fixing what's wrong with our health care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative," Obama said. "Health care reform that reduces costs while expanding coverage is no longer just a dream we hope to achieve -- it's a necessity we have to achieve."
Posted at 12:44 PM ET on Mar 2, 2009
Cast of Characters
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