Your New Health Care Czar: Nancy-Ann DeParle

nancyd.jpgToday, President Obama nominated Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to head the the Department of Health and Human Services and Nancy-Ann DeParle, a health care administrator in the Clinton administration, to head the office of health reform.

Sebelius is a former insurance commissioner and two-term blue governor from a red state with a knack for bipartisanship, but she has little Washington experience. DeParle, however, is an old Washington hand and she’ll be responsible for shepherding Obama’s health care plan through Congress, bringing all of the stakeholders to the table, and finally passing reform.

Some resume highlights:

– In 1987, DeParle, then 30, was appointed Tennessee Commissioner of Human Services, where she oversaw an agency with 6,000 employees that provided cash assistance, food stamps, and child welfare and adult rehabilitation services.

– From 1993 to 1997, DeParle served as Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she oversaw health care policy and budget issues.

– In 1997, President Clinton appointed her as Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

She is, as one former colleague described her in a conversation with the Wonk Room, “a practical reformer who believes in making government work. She’s not an ideologue. Rather, she has the ability to hear what the policy and the politics are and move forward in increasing access to health care and improving health quality.” As Jonathan Cohn notes:

This much I can say for sure: Within the health care community, people who either know DeParle personally or are familiar with her work are vouching for integrity–and doing so strongly. Typical was a statement Ron Pollack, president of FamiliesUSA, made to me last week: “She’s an honest person who will serve health care reform well and won’t be swayed by other associations she had in her private-sector business work.

Sebelius and DeParle are pragmatists. Both have worked with Republicans, the insurance industry and business groups to push for reform. DeParle has the Washington experience that Sebelius lacks, but both women are focused on making government work. Those are the qualifications that could get a viable health reform bill on the President’s desk.