Political Diagnosis: Kansas Governor is HHS Frontrunner; Stimulus Bill Includes Money for Treatment Comparisons; What’s Holding Up Reversal on Stem Cells? …

By Christine |

Obama Closer to Nominating HHS Secretary: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appears to be President Obama’s leading choice for secretary of Health and Human Services. In a front-page story on Thursday, Peter Baker and Rober Pear of The New York Times write:

With his economic recovery plan signed into law, Mr. Obama plans to turn his attention more to health care next week with a fiscal blueprint that will begin to advance his ideas about covering the uninsured, advisers said. He may also make health care a theme of his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, they said.

It remained unclear whether the White House would finish vetting Ms. Sebelius in time to nominate her by next week. Advisers described her as “the leading candidate,” although they said other names were still in discussion and emphasized that no final decision had been made.

We previously noted Sebelius’ frontrunner status, along with other names reportedly under discussion. The Washington Post’s Al Kamen this week mentioned another would-be contender: “Obama transition chief John D. Podesta, whose name has been out there as perhaps most ready to handle the difficult job, has told co-workers and friends that he’s staying put at his think tank, the Center for American Progress. But he’s been observing that perhaps Bill Novelli, the outgoing head of AARP, the seniors lobby, might be a possible candidate.”

The More Things Change …: In that same column, Kamen notes that Obama’s first 56 selections for Senate-confirmed jobs reflect, well, the status quo — white men still rule, though they’re not quite the majority. At this early stage, 32 percent of the appointees are women.

By way of comparison on a few of these statistics, 39 of Bill Clinton‘s first 48 nominees (81 percent) were white and seven (15 percent) were African American; 75 percent were men. Of George W. Bush‘s 28 first nominees, 22 were white (79 percent) and only 14 percent were women, according to data compiled by the Presidential Transition Project at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.

It should be noted that this snapshot is of the Cabinet and topmost officials in the new administration and may change significantly over time. For example, the average age could be expected to drop a bit as lower-level positions — assistant secretaries and such — get filled, probably with a younger cohort of appointees.

Obama Signs Stimulus Bill: President Obama on Tuesday signed into law the $787-billion economic stimulus bill.

Over at The New York Times, Robert Pear reports that the bill provides “substantial amounts of money for the federal government to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness.”

Under the legislation, researchers will receive $1.1 billion to compare drugs, medical devices, surgery and other ways of treating specific conditions. The bill creates a council of up to 15 federal employees to coordinate the research and to advise President Obama and Congress on how to spend the money.

The program responds to a growing concern that doctors have little or no solid evidence of the value of many treatments. Supporters of the research hope it will eventually save money by discouraging the use of costly, ineffective treatments.

Meanwhile, NPR reports on a new study that shows even head-to-head comparisons don’t provide easy answers.

Scientists Await Action on Stem Cells: Sure the economy has demanded a lot of attention, but some scientists are wondering when Obama is going to lift restrictions on stem cell research.

“Everyone is waiting with bated breath,” George Daley, a leading stem cell scientist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. tells the Washington Post. “We’re all waiting to breathe a huge sigh of relief.”

Know How to Fix Health Care?: If you have a plan — and if you’re an undergraduate or graduate student — Kaiser Family Foundation wants to hear from you. Below is your essay assignment — and unlike the last paper you wrote, this one could net you $1,000:

President Obama has stated that reforming the health care system is one of his top priorities, and there is broad interest from policymakers and the public in making a change. During the campaign, he outlined a framework for reforming health care. The essay should cover: what elements of his plan should be prioritized given the current economic crisis, what elements are most likely to garner support and which ones will be most challenging and why?

Action Alert

* Ask Obama to End Abstinence-Only Funding

President Obama is putting together his proposed budget for 2010, and as he has assured the nation, he will be on the lookout for failed programs that deserve to be eliminated. We have an easy cut to suggest: End federal funding for the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage experiment.

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2 Comments

  1. MomTFH says:

    I have a plan for reforming health care and helping fix that pesky poor research on treatments of value problem. I think pharmaceutical companies can fund preliminary R & D in house, but should put money into a general fund for independent researchers to do their research to submit to the FDA for new drug approval or new drug applications approval. All results would have to be published, and at least one of the studies would have to compare that treatment to existing treatments. I am a student. Is this essay long enough for the competition?

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks for including the action alert from Chicago Foundation for Women on ending funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage. We’ve gotten hundreds of responses so far–that means Obama has heard hundreds of times how abstinence-only is not only ineffective, it’s also sexist.