- The Washington Times - Monday, March 2, 2009

UPDATED:

President Obama on Monday named a new White House health czar to fill the post that had been planned for former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who withdrew from his appointment last month.

Mr. Obama named Nancy-Ann DeParle, 52, as the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, while simultaneously announcing the appointment of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of health and human services.

Mr. Daschle, who backed out because of problems with $128,000 in taxes that went unpaid until his appointment, had been Mr. Obama’s pick to fill both these slots.

Mr. Obama wanted to call upon Mr. Daschle’s hefty congressional experience and contacts, as well as his health-care-policy knowledge, to help his drive toward providing health care for all Americans.

Instead, the president will rely on Mrs. Sebelius and Mrs. DeParle to coordinate their efforts.

“I think it will be a great partnership,” Mrs. DeParle said, standing next to Mr. Obama in the White House East Room after he introduce her and Mrs. Sebelius.

Eric Hargan, a former deputy secretary at HHS under President Bush, said the Obama administration was “doing themselves a real service by splitting those offices up.”

“It’s too much. Sebelius would be handling the largest civilian department in the fed government. It’s a quarter of the federal budget, an enormous place,” he said.

“And to add to that to try to handle all the White House things herself, it was a recipe for disaster.”

Mrs. DeParle is a former Clinton administration official turned private equity financier at CCMP Capital who has spent the last several years as a national health-care policy expert, serving on a variety of boards and commissions and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mrs. DeParle held two health-care-related jobs during President Clinton’s two terms. From 1993 to 1997, she was associate director for health and personnel at the White House Office of Management and Budget. From 1997 to 2000, she was administrator of the Healthcare Financing Administration.

Before that, she served as commissioner of human services for Tennessee. She has served in recent years on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).

Mr. Obama called Mrs. DeParle, who is married to New York Times reporter Jon DeParle, “one of the nation’s leading experts on health-care and regulatory issues.”

Mr. Obama, in formally announcing Mrs. DeParle and Mrs. Sebelius to their positions, said the two women would be “critical” to his reform efforts.

“If we are going to help families, save businesses and improve the long-term economic health of our nation, we must realize that fixing what’s wrong with our health-care system is no longer just a moral imperative, but a fiscal imperative,” Mr. Obama said.

“Health-care reform that reduces costs while expanding coverage is no longer just a dream we hope to achieve — it’s a necessity we have to achieve.”

Mr. Obama also announced Monday that his administration will release $155 million from the $787 billion stimulus bill to build or expand 126 community health centers around the country.

He said the health centers will provide access to affordable care for 750,000 people who currently do not have it, and will create 5,500 new jobs at the centers.


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