Reflecting on the Tenure of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

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Health Data Management asked healthcare CIOs, consultants and attorneys for comment on the tenure of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who soon will resign after serving the nation for five years. Here is a snapshot of thoughts:

John Moore, Managing Director, Chilmark Research:

“Kathleen Sebelius joined this administration and helped do what other administrations have been unable to do since President Johnson's Secretary Gardner, who ushered in Medicare. She assisted President Obama in negotiating across countless stakeholders the successful passage of the Affordable Care Act, which will have a very long reaching impact on this industry sector. Sebelius led the earlier implementation of ACA, a program that will take several more years to fully develop and mature. She also led HHS through implementation of the HITECH Act which has resulted in a dramatic increase in the adoption and use of EHRs by providers.

“Not all was perfect though, and there were some snafus along the way including the terrible launch of, the still questionable expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on statewide health information exchanges, the continued delay of ICD-10 and a still untested market appetite for accountable care organizations. What is clear, however, is that under Sebelius' leadership we have begun a massive transformation in the healthcare sector that will likely take a decade to see the final fruits of these initiatives. Early signs are promising.”

Stanley Nachimson, Principal, Nachimson Advisors and a 30-year HHS veteran:

“She had a long tenure as Secretary with some successes and some problems. However, I do not see any changes in administration policy with her resignation and replacement.”

William Bernstein, chair of the health division at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips:

“Secretary Sebelius has overseen one of the important periods of transformation in American healthcare. With the announcement that approximately 7.5 million Americans have enrolled in new health insurance programs through Healthcare Marketplaces and the successful expansion of Medicaid in more than half of the States, she leaves behind an impressive legacy. Always candid and factual, she is a model public servant whose leadership and values will be missed.”

John Halamka, M.D., CIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center & co-chair of the HIT Standards Committee:

“I want to thank Kathleen for the challenging work she’s done that laid the foundation for the years of healthcare reform implementation ahead. During her transition, I’ll stay focused on the road ahead. For me, every day is Meaningful Use, ICD-10 (yes, we’ll finish it), ACA, and HIPAA Omnibus Rule.”

Adam Greene, Partner in the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLC and a former HHS health IT and privacy specialist:

“Secretary Sebelius navigated HHS through a period of time in which the department was subject to nearly unprecedented attention. While the focus of the past year has been on the rollout of the health insurance exchanges, the department has promulgated a huge volume of other regulations and programs pursuant to the Affordable Care Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ranging from accountable care organizations to EHR incentive programs. It will take years to judge the success or failure of these programs. It will be interesting to see if her successors will have more freedom to improve upon these programs without the same degree of political scrutiny hanging over their every decision. On a lighter note, let’s not forget that Secretary Sebelius and Elmo taught us all to sneeze into our elbows.”

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