KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Turns To ‘Proven Manager’ To Shepherd HHS And Health Law

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whom President Barack Obama named to replace outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is a relatively unknown 'budget wonk' who is being asked to navigate some difficult terrain to keep the president's signature achievement on track.  

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Announces New Health Secretary Nominee
President Barack Obama's decision to place Sylvia Mathews Burwell atop the federal health agency sets up a fresh Senate fight over his signature domestic achievement, and poses a test for a relatively unknown but experienced White House official. In announcing Ms. Burwell's nomination Friday to succeed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama hit refresh on a post that symbolized the fraught rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans prepared to use Ms. Burwell's Senate confirmation as a new opportunity to showcase what they see as the law's flaws, a central issue in this year's midterm elections (Lee, Peterson and Paletta, 4/11).

The Washington Post: For HHS Hot Seat, Obama Chooses Burwell, A Budget Wonk
After the political tumult and technical defects that have hindered the Affordable Care Act, Obama selected a trusted budget wonk with a reputation for management acumen and a rapport with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. By choosing someone he twice called a "proven manager" in his announcement Friday, Obama signaled his need for a set of steady hands to shepherd his signature domestic initiative through the end of his tenure. Even though the administration met a first-year insurance enrollment goal, many potential obstacles lie ahead before the health-care law is fully implemented (Eilperin and Goldstein, 4/11).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Names Budget Chief As New Health Secretary 
With Burwell, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to her current post, the White House hopes to ensure the continued rollout of the healthcare law offers Republicans no more ammunition to attack it. ... Although the website has been fixed and 7.5 million people have now enrolled, it remains unclear how well the program will work in its critical first year. Any stumbles could rejuvenate GOP opposition to the health law. In the next few months, health insurers will begin to price premiums for 2015 in preparation for the next enrollment period that opens in November. Several insurance industry officials have warned that they may seek double-digit increases in premiums for 2015 because they did not get enough healthy enrollees in the first year. That has set off a scramble at HHS and the White House, which fears a series of major rate hikes (Parsons and Memoli, 4/11).

The Hill: Can Burwell Turn HHS Around?
But as President Obama's nominee to head the Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS), Burwell would have more on her plate than just the healthcare law. The HHS secretary is in charge of a volatile mix of programs, politics and stakeholders that makes it among the hardest of all the Cabinet positions. The job is a magnet for partisan attacks, and Burwell would assume her new role in a high-stakes election year when Republicans hope to use the healthcare law to take back the Senate (Viebeck, 4/12).

The Washington Post: Here Are The Biggest Problems For Obamacare’s Next Leader
If Sylvia Mathews Burwell is confirmed as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, it puts her in charge of a sprawling health-care overhaul that's still gaining its footing and is under constant attack from opponents. The Obama administration is celebrating the more than 7.5 million people who have signed up for coverage in Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, but there are big implementation challenges for the next HHS leader (Millman, 4/11).

The Hill:  Burwell’s Top 5 Challenges at HHS
Sylvia Burwell will have a lot on her plate as the next leader of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If she's confirmed, the outgoing White House budget director will head up one of Washington's largest and most unwieldy bureaucracies (Viebeck, 4/14).

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