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Obama Set to Name Health Secretary Sebelius to Tackle Problems with Medicare, FDA

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 5:14am
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the president's choice for health and human services secretary, will face a host of challenges in her new job, including a health system in disarray and a nation's food supply at risk. Obama will introduce Sebelius on Monday afternoon in the White House East Room. The announcement of his health and human services secretary nominee comes just days before the president holds a White House summit on health care. Lawmakers from both parties and representatives of major interest groups, from insurers to drug companies to consumers, will attend. Gaining their support — as well as winning confirmation — are among the 60-year-old governor's first challenges. A vast bureaucracy that handles everything from Medicare to cancer research to food safety awaits her. She will also be a very public face for Obama's plans for health care, although a White House-based counterpart will handle many of the new policy moves. The recession has taken its toll on Medicare, which provides health care for older people and the disabled. Plunging tax revenues have weakened the program's giant hospital fund, accelerating its projected insolvency to as early as 2016. That is only about five years after the first baby boomers will start signing up for services. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, is reeling from a seemingly endless series of safety lapses.

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