TOPEKA | U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius predicted Ftoay that federal health care changes approved this year will be refined, but she gave no hint that Democratic President Barack Obama's administration is backing away from a law targeted by successful Republican campaigns.
She promoted the new law as a significant step toward improving Americans' health and their medical care during a speech to the Kansas Hospital Association's annual convention in Topeka.
Sebelius, a former two-term Kansas governor, didn't mention Republicans' strong criticism of the changes championed by Obama and fellow Democrats in Congress — or the GOP recapturing a U.S. House majority in this year's elections. She deflected questions from reporters after her speech about the law's future.
She said the administration is implementing the law and seeing positive changes from provisions that allow parents to keep their young-adult children on their health coverage or that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.
"Those efforts are moving forward," she told reporters. "We have some very positive changes already in the market place and we will continue to implement the law as we move forward."
Many Republicans, including the members of Kansas' soon-to-be all-GOP congressional delegation, want the law repealed, and Kansas Attorney General-elect Derek Schmidt, also a Republican, has promised to have Kansas join other states in challenging it in federal court.
In her remarks, Sebelius didn't touch on the law's requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, starting in 2014. That provision helped energize the tea party movement and is a key issue in legal challenges by states.
Asked about that GOP opposition to the law, Sebelius said: "I think this is a platform for a big step forward in health care, not only in the delivery system but in the insurance side of the puzzle, and we will continue to work on refining it and improving it as we move forward."
But Tom Bell, the hospital association's president, said uncertainty about the law's future has created anxiety among his group's members about what to expect from the federal government.
"We are, as a country, still divided about this law, and you cannot look at the polls and reach any other conclusion," Bell said after Sebelius' remarks. "Our hope is that folks can go to Washington and over the course of the next couple of years, figure out how they come to some agreement so the that public feels a little bit more united about this."