Challenges Await Sebelius at HHS
President Obama will nominate Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) today as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, a job originally offered to former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who withdrew last month due to issues with back taxes. Experts suggest that in addition to the administration's health care reform efforts, Sebelius, 60, will face several other big tasks as head of a department with more than 65,000 employees.
• In the coming years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will face new pressures as Medicare expenditures rise, according to an analysis by the Government Accountability Office. GAO also maintains that the next secretary will have to develop payment reforms to control spending, work on improving the program's quality and address several management concerns.
• Following the deadly salmonella outbreak, critics are questioning the Food and Drug Administration's ability to protect the nation's food supply and the safety and efficacy of medical products. A recent GAO report noted the FDA's resources had not "increased in proportion to the growing demands placed on it," compromising the agency's ability to fulfill its mission. Sebelius will likely face early questions about proposals to merge the FDA's food safety inspection efforts with other government agencies that have similar responsibilities. Observers also note shortages in the nation's public health workforce and HHS's preparations for potential public health emergencies.
• Should the governor's confirmation make it to the Senate confirmation stage (not an easy task for some Obama nominees), experts suggest lawmakers should ask about her plans to manage Medicare, with particular regard to addressing patient safety and quality of care, as well as and HHS's children's health programs.
• More than a month into the administration, Obama has yet to name any HHS appointees, including a new leader at FDA or the National Institutes of Health. As The Post reported on Sunday, Obama will nominate someone other than Sebelius to serve as "health czar," or director of a new White House Office of Health Reform, a job Daschle would have held in addition to HHS secretary. Sebelius obviously will have to forge a good working relationship with whoever fills that post.
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| March 2, 2009; 6:15 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments
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