Entries in Kathleen Sebelius (5)


Sebelius Seeks Review of Organ Allocation

Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Health and Human Services' Secretary Katheen Sebelius has called for a review of policies affecting children awaiting lung transplants, as the parents of a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl fight for their daughter to be granted the care they said she has been denied because of her age.

If Sarah Murnaghan were 12 years old, she would be at the top of the adult lung transplant list because she only has weeks to live and a lung transplant would as-good-as cure her of cystic fibrosis.

But she's not 12, and if she doesn't get new lungs, she might not even make it to 11.

The Murnaghan family of Newtown Square, Pa., is fighting a little known organ transplant policy that is effectively pushing 10-year-old Sarah to the bottom of the adult transplant waiting list because it mandates that adult lungs be offered to all adult patients before they can be offered to someone under 12 years old.

"We are not asking for preference for Sarah, we are asking for equality," Sarah's mother, Janet Murnaghan, said in a press release. "We strongly believe Sarah should be triaged based on the severity of her illness, not her age."

Under the existing policy, children like Sarah are forced to wait for a lung transplant, despite her life-threatening illness.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sebelius asked the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to reconsider existing rules governing lung transplant allocation. Additionally, she is seeking "new approaches for promoting pediatric and adolescent organ donation."

Sarah has been on the pediatric waiting list for new lungs for 18 months, but since there are so few pediatric organ donors, there hasn't been a match. She's been living at Philadelphia Children's Hospital for two months connected to a machine to help her breath, Sarah's aunt, Sharon Ruddock, told ABC News.

There were only 11 lung donors between 6 and 10 years old and only two lung transplants in that age group in 2012, according to an Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network statement.

However, since Sarah was eligible for an adult lung transplant, her family was both horrified and excited when her condition rapidly deteriorated earlier this month because they thought it meant she would get bumped to the top of the adult waiting list, Ruddock said.

"A week went by with nothing, no offers," Ruddock said. "They said, 'Well, you're not at the front of the line. It goes to all adults, and if all the adults turn them down, the lungs go to the kids.'"

Patients with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that damages the lungs, have an average life expectancy of 31 years old, said Dr. Devang Doshi, a pediatric lung specialist at Beaumont Children's Hospital in Michigan who has not met Sarah. But if they get a lung transplant, the condition is essentially cured.

"It's a very disheartening thing to hear and read about because you've got a child in desperate need of a transplant to survive ... and people less qualified in terms of severity are able to get that organ instead of this child because of what's in place," Doshi said. "From a medical standpoint, we look at these types of hurdles and obstacles and sometimes get frustrated with the system."

So Sarah's family started an online petition at to persuade the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to change its policy. So far, they've gathered about 40,000 signatures.

The organization, which falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, responded on Monday that it can't make an exception for Sarah.

"OPTN cannot create a policy exemption on behalf of an individual patient, since giving an advantage to one patient may unduly disadvantage others," the statement read.

Doshi said he thinks children under 12 years old should be considered with the adult patients and awarded organs based on how severe their conditions are. Adult lungs may not perfectly fit child patients, but they can be used to save multiple children. One of his 6-year-old patients' got a partial lung donation from her mother several years ago in a last ditch effort to save her life.

Although adults make up the majority of the lung transplant waiting list, NYU Langone Medical Center's head bioethicist Art Caplan said children should be given priority if they're sicker than those adults, in part because children should be able to get more healthy years out of the lungs than adults.

"At the end of the day it's not so simple as kids versus adults," Caplan said, adding that chances of survival with the new organ and many other issues factor into the decision. "I think, however, there is a case that would say ... most Americans -- as donors -- would want to give priority to children." Doshi also said he thought that most adults would agree children should come first.

Sarah, who dreams of being a singer and a veterinarian, told her parents she wanted to fight for her life but not know how dire her situation was. However, Ruddock said she probably knows anyway. She lost her hearing a few weeks ago as a side effect of one of the antibiotics keeping her alive. At bedtime, she now asks her parents if she'll wake up.

Last Monday, Sarah's siblings and cousins gathered to say goodbye even though their parents didn't say that's what was going on, Ruddock said. On Friday, doctors told the family that they weren't sure Sarah would survive Memorial Day Weekend, but she pulled through.

"She was the little leader in our family. She would always get the little kids to put on a play for us," Ruddock said. "She's a bit of a pistol with a good personality to survive. She's not meek. She's a tough kid."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Two Judges Have Harsh Words for Federal Officials

Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Two judicial opinions this week in two very different cases had scathing language for federal officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.

In the first case, Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding emergency contraceptives that can be taken to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.

Last month, the court ruled against the administration and ordered that levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be available over the counter and without point-of sale age restrictions. The government asked for a stay of that decision.

On Friday, Korman eviscerated Sebelius. He noted that the debate over the contraceptives has gone on for more than 12 years, “even though they would be among the safest drugs available to children and adults on any drugstore shelf.”

In 2011, the FDA concluded that one version of the drug could be sold without a prescription or an age restriction. But Sebelius reversed the FDA.

The judge said that decision was “politically motivated” and was “so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith.”

He added that if a stay was to be granted, “It will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail – thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process.”

And he didn’t stop there. He said the FDA was negotiating a “sweetheart agreement” with one drug manufacturer. He told the government that its appeal was “frivolous and is taken for the purpose of delay,” but out of courtesy to the Court of Appeals he would allow the parties until May 13 to file their appeal in that court.

The other case, concerning the death penalty, included the dissent of a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Lawyers for death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning filed an emergency motion to stay his execution after the Department of Justice acknowledged errors in FBI hair analysis testimony during Manning’s trial.

In an 8-1 vote, the court granted the stay May 7. But one justice, Michael Randolph, wrote a scathing dissent.

Randolph said that Manning had had access to hair and other forensic evidence for years and shouldn’t have been granted the 11th-hour reprieve.

But what really set the judge off was DOJ’s admission that it was conducting a review of the issues with the Innocence Project.

Randolph noted that the Innocence Project is opposed to the death penalty. And here’s what he said about the review:  ”Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind-boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforced Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Pulls the Plug on Long-Term Care Program

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama Administration threw in the towel Friday, acknowledging that a Long-Term Care provision in the health care law championed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., was financially unsustainable.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to Congress that a 19-month “comprehensive analysis” of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program indicated that it was not viable.

CLASS was a voluntary program where a taxpayer could say, “I may need long term care someday,” and volunteer to pay premiums that would allow the taxpayer to get that cash later in life. There were concerns about this program as it was being formed, leading Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to push a provision in the health care legislation saying HHS would need to certify that CLASS Act would be actuarially sound and financially solvent for 75 years before it could be implemented.

Friday Sebelius acknowledged that she couldn’t make that certification.

“The challenge that CLASS was created to address is not going away,” she noted. “By 2020, we know that an estimated 15 million Americans will need some kind of long-term care and fewer than three percent have a long-term care policy. … (L)eft unaddressed, long-term care costs to taxpayers will only increase. Without insurance coverage or the personal wealth to pay large sums in their later years, more Americans with disabilities will rely on Medicaid services once their assets are depleted, putting further strain on State and Federal budgets.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement that the announcement essentially meant that the Obama administration was acknowledging “what they refused to admit when they passed their partisan health bill: the CLASS Act was a budget gimmick that might enhance the numbers on a Washington bureaucrat’s spreadsheet but was destined to fail in the real world.”

Joyce A. Rogers, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at AARP, issued a statement saying that the powerful seniors organization was “disappointed that the Secretary has prematurely stated she does not see a path forward to properly implement CLASS. In fact, the CLASS actuarial report established that CLASS can still be designed to be a ‘value proposition,’ although development work still needs to be done. We urge the Administration to continue dialogue and development of a viable path forward. Medicare does not cover long-term care, and 70 percent of people age 65 and over will need long-term care services at some point in their lifetime.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HHS Sec. Sebelius: GOP Effort to Repeal Health Care 'An Opportunity'

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Health & Human Services(WASHINGTON) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Tuesday she welcomes the House effort to repeal health care reforms as “an opportunity.”

“The debate in some ways in the House gives us a chance to … remind people what it is that’s at stake,” Sebelius said. “Why we can’t go back to where we were.”

Toward that end, HHS on Tuesday released a new administration analysis that estimates the law will, when it fully kicks in three years from now, prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to between 50 and 129 million non-elderly Americans who have some type of pre-existing health condition.

The Sebelius call featured a handful of people like Dawn Josephson, a mother who hosted President Obama in her backyard on September 22, 2010 for a health care reform discussion. Josephson says her son, who has a preexisting condition, has obtained coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

“If this got overturned I mean it would put our family right back to where we were last summer, where we’d be wondering, ‘OK, what can we possibly do to scale back benefits. Because if we have to pay everything out of pocket again then we cannot have any kind of comprehensive health insurance.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Newt Gingrich to Sarah Palin: 'Slow Down'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former speaker of the House and potential 2012 presidential contender Newt Gingrich had some words of advice for Sarah Palin on Good Morning America Tuesday morning.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” Newt Gingrich said.

A new USA Today/ Gallup poll puts Palin’s favorable rating at 38 percent following her reaction to the shooting in Tucson, her lowest since she was announced as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

“There is no question that she has become more controversial, but she is still a phenomenon. I don’t know anybody else in American politics who can put something on Twitter or put something on Facebook and automatically have it become a national story,” Gingrich said about his possible 2012 rival. “So she remains, I think, a formidable person in her own right.”

While Palin’s numbers fell Obama’s approval rating has risen in the wake of the shooting.

Gingrich praised Obama for picking Bill Daley as his new chief-of-staff and he called the president’s speech in Tucson “very effective” and “what a president should do in a moment like that.”

But the former speaker of the House was highly critical of Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

HHS is set to release a report stating that 129 million people could have preexisting conditions and therefore their health care insurance could be in jeopardy.

Gingrich called this study, released prior to a House GOP vote to repeal Obama’s health care legislation, “left wing propaganda” and dismissed its findings.

“These are people who claim they can cut $500 billion out of Medicare and not affect either doctors, hospitals or senior citizens. If you can believe that you can believe anything they are saying. These are folks who I think have consistently been dishonest about what they are doing,” Gingrich told me. “The Secretary of Health and Human Services has publicly threatened insurance companies that she would basically knock out of being able to bid on things and she’s been very overt in this. She’s behaved like a politician and basically threatening her critics.”´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio