Shalala Looks Back on Eight Years of Service
In a Nov. 30 Wall Street Journal article, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala reflects on her tenure with the Clinton administration. Shalala was one of the few cabinet members to serve during all four years of both Clinton terms. As secretary, she oversaw a broad range of agencies and services, from the FDA and the NIH to the Medicare trust fund -- the extension of which she is quick to note. "When we came in, it was supposed to go belly up in the near future. We've extended (its solvency) for another 23 years," she said, adding that her office's efforts are estimated to have saved the trust $60 billion through "better management and changing the way the health care industry does their business." The FDA has also seen a rise in efficiency during Shalala's term, she said, noting that the drug approval times have decreased and complaints from the drug industry are down. The NIH received "huge boosts" in funding in the last eight years, partly due to backing from congressional Republicans. Shalala "readily acknowledges" the support of GOP lawmakers and wins praise from "conservative" HHS experts, such as the American Enterprise Institute's Doug Besharov, for her ability to work across party lines, the Journal reports. She also "wins plaudits" for appointing such luminaries as Nobel laureate Harold Varmus and Nancy-Ann DeParle to positions at the NIH and Health Care Financing Administration, respectively. Although she did not oversee "major entitlement reform," Shalala is proud of what her agency and the cabinet have done over the course of the administration. "This has been an activist cabinet," she said. Her greatest regret is that "huge gaps" persist in health care coverage, particularly for working families. But Shalala remains encouraged. "I've loved this job," she said (Hunt, Wall Street Journal, 11/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.