HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, February 6, 2009

Kansas Governor for HHS?

McClatchy News reports that Governor Kathleen Sibelius is a leading contender for Secretary of HHS.  Steve Kraste writes,

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius emerged Wednesday as a leading candidate for the Cabinet post of secretary of Health and Human Services."I've got to believe she's on the short, short, short list," said Ron Pollack of the health advocacy group Families USA in Washington. "I think the likelihood is enormous."

Sebelius' rapid elevation as a potential successor to nominee Daschle came after the former senator from South Dakota withdrew Tuesday following a controversy over unpaid taxes. And it came a day after Sebelius' office declined to end speculation that she might be interested in the job.  On Wednesday, her office declined to respond to a request for comment. "We don't have anything new today," spokesman Beth Martino said. . . .                          

But none of that is expected to undermine the job's importance. Sebelius, 60 and a former state lawmaker, also served two terms as the Kansas insurance commissioner before becoming governor in 2003. She advocated increases in the cigarette tax as a way to expand health coverage during her first term as governor. . . .

But Pollack said Sebelius stood out from the pack. "Governor Sebelius is probably the most knowledgeable governor in the country about health care," he said. "She served as insurance commissioner. She was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. She was appointed by President a commission that crafted the patients' bill of rights. "And she obviously has a very close relationship with the president. It seems to me there would be every reason to think she is a leading candidate."

But leaving her post as governor would be tricky, coming as it would less than two months after she withdrew from consideration for Obama's Cabinet on Dec. 6.  At the time, she said she wanted to focus on state spending "given the extraordinary budget challenges facing our state." While joining the Obama team would be exciting, she said at the time that "my service to the citizens who elected me is my top priority in these difficult times." Finessing an about-face would be awkward, but manageable, said Joe Aistrup a Kansas State University political scientist. . .

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