5 Main Challenges for the New HHS Secretary

On Friday, Kathleen Sebelius stepped down as HHS secretary in the wake of a troubled rollout for the federal health insurance exchange website, HealthCare.gov.

President Barack Obama has nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to take over as the leader of HHS. If she's confirmed, Ms. Burwell won't have an easy road ahead of her as she oversees the continuing implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Here are the five main challenges Ms. Burwell will face, according to a report from The Hill. 

1. Surviving this year. Federal health officials have numerous issues to grapple with in 2014. HHS still needs to improve HealthCare.gov before the 2015 enrollment period for the exchanges begins in November. Additionally, with congressional elections coming up, Ms. Burwell could become the subject of political attacks as the head of HHS, according to the report.

2. Forming relationships. Ms. Burwell will have to quickly create and strengthen connections between HHS and healthcare industry stakeholders, such as health insurers.

3. Navigating HHS. The sheer size of the federal health agency — which has a nearly $1 trillion budget and numerous programs to oversee — makes overseeing HHS on of the most difficult cabinet-level jobs, according to The Hill.

4. Promoting Medicaid expansion. As of April 3, 24 states had opted not to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people earning as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty level under the PPACA, according to the report. It's unclear at this point how Ms. Burwell will approach Medicaid expansion.

5. Preparing for 2015 and 2016. In the next few years, Ms. Burwell will oversee important milestones in the PPACA's rollout. For instance, in 2015, the federal government will collect individual mandate penalties for the first time from people who didn't have health insurance the previous year.

More Articles on HHS:
8 Things to Know About Incoming HHS Secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell
HHS' Kathleen Sebelius Steps Down
HHS: US Making Progress in Disease Prevention, Health Promotion 


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