Last night, the New York Times broke news that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is President Obama's top pick for heading up the Health and Human Services agency. Gov. Sebelius brings significant experience to the role - serving for eight years as the state's insurance commissioner, and another six as a governor who sought to improve health care coverage in her state.
Ezra Klein over at The American Prospect proclaims, "Of the names floated for HHS so far, she arguably makes the most sense." Matt Yglesias echoes that sentiment, "Everyone loves Sebelius, so it'd hardly be a crazy pick." Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic agrees: "A Sebelius appointment would be both popular and, I think, smart."
Speculation persists about the kind of role Sebelius would have as a member of Obama's cabinet. Klein suggests that Sebelius' outsider status will prevent her from serving at the nexus of the president's health care reform efforts and the government's health services bureaucracy.
The Wall Street Journal's health blog opines that, unlike Daschle, Sebelius would likely not have dual responsibilities as health czar and HHS secretary (two very different jobs). Instead, Sebelius would have a "seat at the table" for discussions on fixing our nation's health care system.
Here at SEIU, we're encouraged by the news. A candidate like Sebelius would be a welcome addition to the Administration's growing cadre of health care advocates (which includes OMB director Peter Orszag and health policy advisor Ezekiel Emanuel, to name a few). Gov. Sebelius is an experienced and effective reformer---and a partner with SEIU in championing America's working families. During the 2008 presidential campaign, SEIU President Andy Stern and Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger stumped alongside Gov. Sebelius at a variety of townhalls for Obama. (See this article and this one, too.)
Sebelius is not just a partner in health care advocacy - she also shares SEIU's commitment to improving our nation's infrastructure. Last November, Sebelius co-wrote an article with Andy Stern urging investment in our nation's infrastructure, to be funded by pooling pension funds and investing in projects together. "Pension funds could buy and build infrastructure, putting the profits to work for the retirement of workers, not for the benefit of Wall Street CEOs." It's no surprise, then, that as Governor of Kansas, Sebelius lead the charge for updating the state's obsolete health IT system. (Think of it as health care infrastructure.)
For health care policy wonks out there, the following interview by the KHI News Service probes the governor's stance on a variety of health-related issues, including FMAP and children's health insurance:
Update: For a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of Sebelius' health care record, check out Igor Volsky's post at the Wonk Room: http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/02/19/sebelius-hhs/