Sebelius Tapped for HHS

March 3, 2009 ( - Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has accepted President Obama's request to become his secretary of health and human services.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius, 60, would fill a vital Cabinet position originally slated to go to former senator Thomas A. Daschle, who withdrew from consideration last month over his failure to pay $146,000 in back taxes and interest (see Daschle Drops Out ).

Sebelius’s nomination comes just days before the White House is scheduled to convene a summit on health reform. The summit, which is expected to be the first in a series of open meetings across the country, is intended to spotlight the challenges presented by the nation’s current health-care system, and at rallying support for the President’s massive proposal to change it (see Heralding Change ). The health session, similar to the recent “fiscal responsibility” summit, will open with remarks by President Obama, with participants then splitting into working groups led by administration officials.

The Kansas governor served as state insurance commissioner for eight years and has overseen the Medicaid program for the poor during her tenure as governor, according to the Washington Post. Sebelius tried unsuccessfully to expand health coverage in the state through higher cigarette taxes. Sebelius, the daughter of a former Ohio governor (John Gilligan), is halfway through her second term as governor.