Donna Shalala on what's ahead at HHS

Friday - 4/24/2009, 12:33pm EDT

Donna Shalala

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

When it comes to America's health, and health care, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala tells FederalNewsRadio, it's time to get off the dime.

Shalala says the first step is to complete the confirmation process for Kathleen Sebelius.

That's a huge department. It ranges from the National Institutes of Health to the Centers for Disease Control, remember it still runs the nation's childcare programs and welfare programs. It's a very complex agency, much of which needs to be rebuilt. You've heard the stories about the Food and Drug Administration. No one can be confirmed until the Secretary is confirmed, and so from the Deputy Secretary to the FDA Commissioner to the head of NIH, the first thing she's going to have to do is really to assemble the team, to get them confirmed, and then to stay on top of health care reform. We have big issues in this country that have to do with food safety and drug safety and our scientific enterprise. I believe that Governor Sebelius is up to the job.

For those most concerned about a national single payer health care system, Shalala says there's no chance of that happening.

We're going to close the gap for those that don't have health insurance through a variety of mechanisms. Some of it is expanding existing programs and some of it is creating a new structure that will allow people to choose the plan they want. If they need a subsidy, they'll get the subsidy but they'll have to take the responsibility to choose the plan and to pay what they can for health insurance, and their employer will have to take responsibility for either providing health care directly or providing a payment so that they can get health care from a central mechanism. It will not be a government program, it will be a government organized program.

Health care overhaul is gaining traction now, according to Shalala, because continuing with business as usual is no longer an option.

I think the entire health care system has just had it. More importantly, business does not believe they can be competitive unless we get universal coverage and a way to pay for it that will contain costs and improve the delivery system.

Donna Shalala is the President of the University of Miami and served for eight years as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton.

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