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Former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sebelius Picked by President Obama to Head HHS

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas Insurance Commissioner who was also a president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), has been picked...
March 5, 2009

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas Insurance Commissioner who was also a president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), has been picked by President Obama to head the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

As a two-term Democratic governor in a Republican state, Sebelius is considered a moderate, capable of working across party lines -- a key qualification if she is to shepherd health care reform through Congress. Sebelius was born in Ohio, where her father was governor. She studied public administration at the University of Kansas and served for eight years in the Kansas legislature and eight years as state insurance commissioner as well as president of the NAIC in 2001, before being elected governor in 2003. Sebelius was re-elected governor for a second term in 2006. She was an early supporter of Barack Obama for president and was among the finalists considered for vice president.

As president of the NAIC, Sebelius criticized the American Insurance Association (AIA) in 2001 when it unveiled its proposal calling for an optional federal charter for insurers. "Despite the AIA's actions, our focus will not change nor will we yield our mission of safeguarding consumers across the country, knowing that they are and will continue to be well served by the states," she said.

What It Means to Agents:  The president will now have a member of his Cabinet with direct knowledge of, and experience with, the state-based system of insurance regulation. This bodes well for Main Street independent insurance agents and the carriers they represent, especially as Congress again considers regulatory reforms that may touch on insurance. Having a member of the Cabinet at the table who is a former state insurance commissioner and NAIC president ensures that the state perspective will be part of discussions in Washington, D.C.