KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius, DeParle Ready To Tackle Health Care Overhaul

The friendship between "working moms" Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle "could pay big dividends for President Obama now," USA Today reports. The two have a lot in common in the policy world as well. Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, "first met at the White House mess in 1997, during the battle for a patients' bill of rights to combat the constraints of managed care." Their relationship was then "built over a dozen years on topics ranging from the children's health insurance program to raising their own children. Now, they are the "tag team for Obama's most ambitious domestic policy goal: an overhaul of the nation's health care system."

Sebelius and DeParle are "two pragmatists" who aim to "work with Congress rather than dictate it, as the Clinton administration did." This means "spending more time with lawmakers." And while "their goal is to get something passed that includes Obama's principles," "on the most controversial points, the two are willing to negotiate." For example, "they want a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers but say it doesn't need to be a rigid, Medicare-like model. They want more employers to offer health insurance but have not insisted on a mandate. They want to cover more uninsured but have not dictated how many. They want to pay for the expansion but aren't saying what taxes to raise or spending to cut."

Sebelius and DeParle sat down with USA Today for a "joint interview," in which "the two occasionally finish each other's sentences." The two joked that many people still believe they are hiding a completed health care bill, but insisted it will be Congress who writes it "by consensus." "So far, many members are pleased with the tag team's light touch," but there is still significant concern and disagreement in Congress over the reform efforts in the White House. DeParle says the issue of health care "hits very close to home" for both women. "It's part of what makes this work so important and wonderful, I think, for both of us-being able to be involved in something that could really make a difference in people's lives" (Wolf, 6/2).

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