HSS nominee says health care overhaul cannot wait

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Katherine Sebelius, nominee to be the next Secretary for Health and Human Services, expressed support for swift congressional action on health care reform during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions hearing this week.

In her testimony, Sebelius said, 'I think our current economic crisis presents the inevitability that we cannot wait. I believe, as the president has articulated over and over again, that we can't fix the economy of America without fixing the health care system.' She added that overhauling the nation's health care system will require containing costs while also expanding coverage to more Americans.

The number of uninsured people has grown from 45 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006 with nearly 11 percent of all Whites uninsured compared to more than 20 percent of all African Americans and 34 percent of all Hispanics, according to the Census Bureau.

The high number of uninsured people costs the U.S. billions every year, due to lost work time as well as many uninsured people's inability to take advantage of preventative health care services that would decrease the use of costly treatments later. An Institute of Medicine study estimates these losses at $65 billion to $130 billion each year.

Sebelius's confirmation hearing was today in the Senate Finance Committee. She must be confirmed by the full Senate before she assumes the post.