- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, on Tuesday urged quick action on a health care overhaul when opening the confirmation hearing for the person President Obama picked to tackle the daunting task, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

“I’ve benefited from the best of medicine, but we have too many uninsured Americans,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “We have sickness care and not health care. We have too much paperwork and bureaucracy.”

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vowed that if confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary she would immediately pursue a reforming the nation’s health care system.

“Inaction is not an option,” said Mrs. Sebelius at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “The status quo is unacceptable and is unsustainable.”

She also stressed that revamping the country’s inefficient health care system is critical to helping right the nation´s economic woes.

“We cannot fix the economy of America without fixing the health care system,” she said.

The governor said that, if confirmed, she also would work to restore public trust in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been shaken in recent years after several high-profile cases of food contamination and FDA approved drugs that later where found to have fatal side-effects.

Mrs. Sebelius’ appearance before the committee came nearly two months after Mr. Obama’s first choice for HHS secretary, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, withdrew from consideration after news surfaced he failed to pay $140,000 in taxes and interest.

The hearing was the first time Mrs. Sebelius has answered questions publicly from Capitol Hill lawmakers, though the Senate Finance Committee, which will hold a confirmation hearing with the governor Thursday, has the final say whether or not to send her confirmation to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Answering a question from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, Mrs. Sebelius said she supports the president’s desire to establish a government operated health insurance option to compete with private plans. But she added she doesn’t support a government takeover of the health insurance industry.

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