Our guest blogger is Raj Goyle, the State Representative for the 87th District of Kansas.
The nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a good sign for all those who support a common sense strategy for national health reform. Governor Sebelius is eminently qualified for the challenges she now faces. Her proven track record — as a Democratic Governor of a traditionally Republican state — makes her uniquely suited to help President Obama contain the spiraling costs of health care, expand access, and improve quality.
As Governor, Insurance Commissioner, and state legislator, her number one priority has always been to improve Kansans’ access to affordable, quality health care. When she ran for Insurance Commissioner, she refused to accept a dime of contributions from the insurance industry. While Commissioner, she concluded that a proposed merger between two major insurance companies would drastically raise premiums for Kansas citizens, so she blocked the sale – an unprecedented move for an insurance commissioner of any state. She promoted a series of consumer-oriented bills in the Legislature: a patient’s bill of rights; mandatory maternity coverage; an initiative to protect the privacy of consumers. And not only did she successfully fight for the people of Kansas, she did so while reducing the budget of the Commission by 19%. She knows that better health care need not lead to bigger government.
As Governor, she has also been an effective leader on health issues. She prodded the Legislature to pass legislation consolidating the state’s seven major medical programs and creating the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which has simplified the process of obtaining health care and helped contain costs. She spearheaded the effort for state employees to negotiate a new health insurance contract, reducing premiums for thousands of Kansans. She launched the Healthy KIDS program, which has expanded coverage for low-income children, and signed a bill doubling the tax credit for small businesses that provide employee health savings accounts. Some of her initiatives have not passed our deeply Republican Legislature but even those proposals — such as a statewide smoking ban — have shifted the debate in our state toward pragmatic solutions that may one day become law.
In many ways Kathleen Sebelius is the ideal leader to help President Obama lead the fight to save our health care system from its current crisis. She is a talented consensus builder, a gifted administrator, and a true health care expert. We in Kansas are sad to see her go, but our loss is the nation’s gain.