The Times West Virginian


April 16, 2014

State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.

For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.

Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

Before that, she was deputy chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and she served as chief of staff to former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and as deputy director of the White House budget office during a period in which the federal government saw three consecutive budget surpluses.

But people soon will be hearing more about her. Just last week, Burwell was nominated to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

She also happens to be a West Virginia native.

If confirmed for the position, it won’t be an easy one. Burwell will inherit a beleaguered agency that desperately wants to move beyond the past several months, which have been characterized by the chaotic rollout of the Affordable Care Act and

But members of both parties say Burwell is up to the challenge of running the $1 trillion bureaucracy.

As reported by The Associated Press, those who have worked with Burwell describe her as meticulous, driven and results-oriented. Even Obama, when he announced Burwell’s nomination, said that in the year since she rejoined the White House, the annual deficit has dropped by more than $400 billion.

“She is a rigorous, relentless, proven manager,” Brian Deese, Burwell’s deputy in the budget office, said in an interview last week. “That is exactly what HHS needs right now.”

Deese couldn’t be more accurate. Health and Human Services is a complex program — a $1 trillion agency that plays a key role in American society and the economy. More than 100 million people receive coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and the new health care law. Burwell would also oversee the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates a broad range of consumer products, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It doesn’t help that the new health care law has faced many setbacks and low approval ratings. And despite the end of the initial open enrollment period, there are still challenges ahead, including keeping premiums affordable for 2015; overhauling the sign-up process to make it more consumer-friendly; working with states that are still opposed to or undecided about the law’s Medicaid expansion; and helping to guide administration policy on how to enforce the law’s penalties for individuals who remain uninsured and the medium- to large-sized businesses that do not provide affordable coverage to their employees.

It’s obvious that the agency needs someone who can bring a wealth of expertise in economics and government management to the job.

Burwell seems to be that person. As the AP has reported, she shepherded the federal government through a 16-day government shutdown imposed by Congress last year and helped secure a budget agreement with Congress that has temporarily averted political brinksmanship over the U.S. economy.

And we’re not the only ones who think Burwell is the right pick for this post. As Obama said last week, “Sylvia is a proven manager, and she knows how to deliver results.”

Delivering results will be crucial as Burwell takes on this latest role, but we’re confident it is one she will face with the same knowledge and drive she has brought to previous positions.

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  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

  • Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions

    This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
    The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    July 18, 2014

  • Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year

    It’s happening again.
    It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
    But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.

    July 17, 2014

  • County honors men who gave all in helping their community

    The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
    Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
    The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.

    July 16, 2014

  • State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less

    The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
    Let’s not do that again.

    July 15, 2014

  • Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past

    Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
    The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
    Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.

    July 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?

    I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:
    “Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”
    I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.

    July 13, 2014

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