WASHINGTON (AP) _ Health secretary nominee Kathleen Sebelius says everyone should have health coverage but she avoided endorsing
the idea of making individuals legally responsible for seeing that
Sebelius was responding to questions from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who proposed a so-called individual mandate in his own health overhaul plan.
Baucus noted that during the presidential campaign Barack Obama proposed mandating that all children be insured - but not all
adults. He asked Sebelius if she supported an individual mandate
and whether she believes all Americans should be insured. Right
now, some 48 million are not.
Sebelius said she agrees with the president that all Americans should have health coverage, but she didn't address the issue of making it mandatory.
Sebelius also noted critics who say health care reform should be delayed until the economic crisis begins to be resolved. Sebelius says the time to act is now - saying economic reform depends on reforming health care.
Concerning access to care, Sebelius says cost and pre-existing conditions continue to be obstacles. She cited small businesses who happen to have several employees with medical issues being charged disproportionate rates. She suggested going to a broader community rating, where everyone would share the risk.
One Senator questioned Sebelius about mental health coverage. Sebelius cited efforts for mental health parity in Kansas and said mental health is a critical component of a person's overall health.
The top Republican on the Committee is asking health and human
services nominee Kathleen Sebelius to explain $7,000 worth of
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said he takes such tax matters
``very seriously'' and is eager to hear Sebelius' answers. Grassley
made the request in the opening of the Kansas governor's
confirmation hearing to become health and human services secretary.
Sebelius recently amended three years of tax returns and paid about $7,000 to correct what she said were unintentional errors.
She's the latest in a string of Obama administration nominees with
tax problems, but they aren't expected to pose serious problems for
The Senate Finance Committee will decide whether to forward Sebelius' nomination to the full Senate.