February 28, 2009 / 10:43 PM / 11 years ago

Obama picks Sebelius as health secretary

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius attends the meeting of the Governors Association hosted by President Obama at the White House in Washington February 23, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has decided to nominate Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services and will formally announce the decision at a White House ceremony on Monday, a U.S. official said on Saturday.

“This evening, the president asked Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to serve as his Secretary of Health and Human Services, and she accepted,” the administration official said on condition of anonymity. “The president will formally announce the nomination on Monday afternoon at the White House.”

Sebelius had been considered a top contender for the position since former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination after he had to pay $140,000 in back personal income taxes.

The Daschle withdrawal was a big blow for Obama, who made healthcare reform a key part of his agenda during the election campaign and was relying on the former Democratic leader to guide his agenda through the U.S. Congress.

Sebelius, a longtime Obama supporter who had been mentioned as a contender for other Cabinet posts, spent eight years as state health commissioner, and as the Democratic governor of the largely Republican state she has a reputation for working in a bipartisan manner.

As an insurance commissioner, she helped block the sale of the state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance program to a for-profit healthcare conglomerate because of concerns it would have raised rates.

As governor she organized a commission of business leaders, health providers, insurers and patient advocates to recommend ways to rein in rising healthcare costs.

Last year she urged the Kansas Legislature to adopt a health reform program that included promoting personal responsibility for health and wellness, paying for preventive care and providing all Kansas with affordable health insurance.

At her urging, Kansas is involved in an a prescription drug initiative that enables state residents to buy lower-cost drugs from state-approved pharmacies in Canada and Europe, according to her gubernatorial campaign website.

Editing by Eric Walsh

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