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Challenges Await Sebelius at HHS

By Ed O'Keefe

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.

Kathleen Sebelius
In this Feb. 9, 2009 file photo, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius greets visitors to her office in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo by Orlin Wagner)

• 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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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 2, 2009; 6:15 AM ET
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Sebelius is another poor selection for a cabinet post. I voted for Pres. Obama and I am very disappointed at his thoughtless appointments. Her only positives are working in the health care insurance industry and being elected by a largely Republican state. However, as governor, she failed in health care and completely failed in her own state's budget. She has supported trial lawyers over working people continually. Why did Obama pick her? Probably becauses she screams pro-choice so loud, we're supposed think that makes her qualified. This is certainly not "change we can believe in" but a President who is starting to get out of touch and gradually braking his many promises.

Posted by: opalsun66 | March 2, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Governor Sebelius is a strong selection for the HHS cabinet position. She is highly-experienced in the venue, very smart and articulate, and politically savy. She has already been working with the Obama team during the election and has a very good relationship with our new president. She succeeds less with her lack of experience in getting legislation through Congress (a Daschle skill), but there are many who will assist. There are some manufactured controversies about the topic of abortion, but let her answer the questions and clear things up for the greater public. I give her the thumbs up, also, because she supports making broad and cheap contraceptives WITH effective family planning education available as part of our new national healthcare agenda. That is wise approach and a win-win empowering women, families, and providing a pro-life and pro-choice approach. This profoundly lowers unwanted pregnancies and makes abortion safe and rare. What a thought.

She is strongly bipartison, pro-business, and a hawk on programs that bring higher value. A post above by opalsun66 | March 2, 2009 11:38 AM, was troubling to say the least regarding the lack of information and outrageous hyperbole.

Posted by: lucy2008 | March 2, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

GAO Says FDA Should Better Regulate Dietary Supplements:

Posted by: Cynthia111 | March 3, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

GAO Says FDA Should Better Regulate Dietary Supplements:

Posted by: Cynthia111 | March 3, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know, since there is virtually no info on this, why do we need to add yet another bureaucratic layer to our bloated govt by adding all of these CZARS? We have a Health and Human Director but we also have a Health CZAR. What is the power of these czars? From my research I've found the CZARS will report directly to Obama and they will assist him in the fast CHANGE we are about to see. CHANGE in which we will lose many, many freedoms. Thus far I've counted at least eight czars that sound as though they will be more or less a shadow government (they report directly to Obama alone!) to help Obama swiftly accomplish his IDEOLOGY SHIFT of our country. Is this constitutional? Why the urgency? Why duplication of services in this awful economy? Mr. O'Keefe, could you do a investigative story?

Posted by: MaggieMay2 | March 4, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

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