Sunday, March 1, 2009

Obama Names Sebelius As Health and Human Services Secretary

There is an article in the New York Times about President Obama selecting Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as he pushes forward a $634 billion health care reform plan.

Sebelius, 60, would inherit a department of 65,000 employees responsible for public health, food safety, scientific research, and the administration of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which serve 90 million Americans. The solvency of the programs is yet another worry confronting the administration, which has vowed to take on entitlement reform. The department's budget, consumed largely by the two programs, exceeds $700 billion. California's budget crisis has deeply affected Medi-Cal and there is presently litigation over proposed Medi-Cal cuts that the State is not winning.

Our office sees concern over the fiscal integrity of the programs resulting in a large shift in how the federal and state programs treat providers. There has been an increased aggressiveness towards providers in enrollment, payments, audits and overpayments -- and we can expect this to continue.

The recession has taken its toll on Medicare, which provides health care for older people and the disabled. Plunging tax revenues have weakened the program's giant hospital fund, accelerating its projected insolvency to as early as 2016, only five years after the first baby boomers start signing up for services.

The Kansas governor served as state insurance commissioner for eight years and has overseen the Medicaid program for the poor during her tenure as governor. Sebelius tried unsuccessfully to expand health coverage in the state through higher cigarette taxes. Still, under her tenure, Kansas has added tens of thousands of low-income children to state health programs.



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