Obama nominates Sebelius as health secretary

March 3rd, 2009 - 1:11 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, March 2 (DPA) US President Barack Obama Monday nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as health secretary, his second choice for what will be a critical post in the new administration.
Sebelius, who was once considered a possibility for vice president, will take the job after Obama’s first pick Thomas Daschle was forced to withdraw amid a tax scandal.

Obama also tapped Nancy Ann DeParle, who served in former president Bill Clinton’s administration, to lead a new White House office for health reform. With Sebelius and DeParle, Obama chose to divide a job that would have been held exclusively by the well-connected Daschle.

Obama has vowed to reform the US health care system, one of the costliest in the world, during his first term. The challenge has frustrated previous administrations due to sharp ideological differences over how to tackle the problem.

Sebelius, 60, was elected governor of the Midwestern state of Kansas in 2003 and re-elected in 2006. She previously headed the state agency that regulates insurance companies.

Sebelius’ nomination as head of the Health and Human Services Department fills Obama’s last remaining cabinet post. She will still have to be approved by the US Senate.

Daschle, a former Senate majority leader and close friend of Obama’s, chose to withdraw his nomination after it emerged that he had failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes on a private car and driver.

More than 40 million people in the US do not have health insurance and health care spending amounted to more than 16 percent of US gross domestic product in 2008. Obama has warned that bringing down costs is the only way to reduce a spiralling federal deficit in the long term.

“Fixing what’s wrong with our health care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative,” Obama said in a statement announcing the nominations.

During the 2008 election campaign, Obama supported a public-private system. He suggested creating a government-run insurance option to compete alongside private insurers, in order to expand access and pull down costs.

Republicans have already signalled strong opposition, fearing the idea will eventually lead to a government-dominated health care system similar to those in Britain or France.

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