By Topeka Capital-Journal, April 18
Kathleen Sebelius, former Kansas governor and outgoing secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, appears to be stepping away from the government fray for the first time in 27 years.
Whether she plans to stay away from partisan politics and government, only she knows at this time.
However, it seems fitting now to acknowledge and applaud the Kansas Democrat’s long service to Kansas and her country, which began when she took the oath of office as a member of the Kansas House of Representatives in 1987.
Sebelius was re-elected to her House seat three times before stepping aside to seek election in 1994 as Kansas insurance commissioner, a position she won and held until being elected governor in 2002. She was re-elected in 2006 but resigned that post in 2009 to accept the HHS cabinet position in President Barack Obama’s administration. The White House announced her resignation on April 11.
Regardless of what individual Kansans think of Sebelius’ politics or her stewardship of the offices she held, elected and appointed, 27 years of dedicated public service is worthy of recognition.
Now, she is most widely known for her stint as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and more specifically as the head of the department responsible for drafting regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the rollout of the government website designed to administer health insurance enrollment under the ACA. The significant problems with the website project won’t be repeated here, and it should be noted Sebelius served Kansas long and well before heading off to Washington, D.C., when summoned by Obama.
Sebelius, an Ohio native who moved to Kansas in 1974, was serving as the state’s insurance commissioner when an Indiana company, a for-profit insurance group, made a strong push to merge with the nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. Sebelius ruled against the merger, the details of which were heavily tilted toward the for-profit firm.
Her action in that case made Sebelius a household name in Kansas and the popularity she gained served her well when she sought and won the governor’s seat in 2002. She also proved to be a popular governor, as evidenced by her re-election in 2006, and won national acclaim in some quarters as one of the best governors in the country.
That Sebelius was able to win four statewide elections (two each for insurance commissioner and governor) in a heavily red state is testament to her popularity and service to Kansas, which will always be part of her political legacy.