Obama nominates Sebelius

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--Industry stakeholders don’t know much about Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, the nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. But they hope she’s like another politician from that state: Sen. Pat Roberts.

Industry stakeholders plan to leverage the relationship between Sebelius, a Democrat, and Roberts, a Republican who has supported the industry’s initiatives to delay national competitive bidding and repeal the 36-month oxygen cap.

“Even though they’re in different parties, they’ve worked closely over the past few years,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “So there’s a lot of opportunity there to move the industry in the right direction.”

President Barack Obama nominated Sebelius for the top healthcare position March 2. As governor, she has proposed financing healthcare initiatives by raising tobacco taxes and has called for universal health care for Kansans.

Sebelius has also worked in the state’s House of Representatives and as its insurance commissioner.

“When she was insurance commissioner, she was always a good advocate for the consumer,” said Sheila Roberson, Kansas chairwoman for the Midwest Association of Medical Equipment Services (MAMES) and office manager for Criticare Home Health Services in Lawrence, Kan.

Obama also nominated Nancy-Ann DeParle, former administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), now CMS, to lead the new White House Office for Health Reform. DeParle helped launch the agency’s competitive bidding demonstration in Polk County, Florida.

But industry stakeholders point out that times have changed.

“(DeParle) thought there were changes that needed to be made to the industry back in the late ’90s, but I’m confident that when we go in there and educate her on the significant changes that have taken place since she left HCFA, she will hear us out,” Johnson said.