Looks like we have a health czar after all. President Obama named Nancy-Ann DeParle director of the White House Office for Health Reform.
DeParle will join forces with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who Obama today formally announced as his nominee for secretary of Health & Human Services, to craft a plan that expands health care coverage and reins in costs. Then they just have to sell the plan to Congress and the public.
From the Washington Post:
In his remarks, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to push ahead on the initiative, despite objections from some Republicans and others who say that it will be too costly, especially given the nation’s other fiscal problems.
“I didn’t come to Washington to take the easy route,” he said, adding that health care reform poses a crucial fiscal challenge to the country. On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to host a White House summit on health care that is intended to bring together a wide range of constituencies — from drug companies to doctor — who have a large stake in reform.
“I share your passion and personal commitment to health care reform,” Sebelius said to Obama after she was nominated. “We can’t fix the economy without fixing health care.”
The New York Times today has a front-page story on Sebelius’ often frustrated efforts to forge bipartisan consensus on health care issues in Kansas.
“She recently observed that the greatest frustration of her six years in office had been her inability to persuade lawmakers to raise tobacco taxes for a modest expansion of government health coverage,” writes Kevin Sack.
There’s also a story on Obama’s ambitious health plan. Robert Pear writes:
The powerful interests that dominate the health care industry could challenge even Mr. Obama’s political deftness. To pay for any new plan, he would tax upper-income households and require new “efficiencies” in health care. He has also proposed cutting federal payments to hospitals, insurers, drug companies and home health agencies, and that could turn powerful groups against him.
Lobbyists for the industry say they are torn between their impulse to work with the president to win universal coverage and the need to fight against deep cuts. They are already on guard because of Medicare’s precarious condition, warning the administration not to try to mend the program by reducing their payments.
DeParle is a former Clinton administration official who oversaw Medicare and Medicaid as the administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration. She was also previously commissioner of the Department of Human Services in Tennessee. She sits on corporate boards of companies involved with the manufacturing of medical devices and IT.
A side note, DeParle’s husband, Jason DeParle, is a New York Times reporter who has written extensively about welfare and poverty. He is the author of “American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare.”
Plus: Over at the Huffington Post, there’s an interview with Howard Dean, who was passed over for a cabinet post, about his future plans, including advocating for health care reform.