HHS Pick Sebelius Admits 'Unintentional' Tax Errors

Associated Press
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius has corrected three years' worth of tax returns after finding "unintentional errors."

Sebelius (D), the governor of Kansas, alerted senators to the changes in a letter yesterday. She said the changes involved charitable contributions, the sale of a home and business expenses. She and her husband paid a total of $7,040 in back taxes and $878 in interest from 2005 to 2007.

It is the latest tax issue to hit an Obama administration nominee. The president's first pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services, former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), withdrew because of major tax problems.

At a confirmation hearing earlier in the day, Sebelius said she backs Obama's call for giving Americans the option of government-run health insurance as an alternative to private coverage.

The proposal for a public plan that would compete with private insurers has emerged as the most divisive issue as Obama seeks to overhaul the health system to reduce costs and shrink the ranks of 48 million uninsured. Republicans fear that the competing plan would drive some private insurers out of business.

"If the question is, do I support a public option side by side with private insurers," Sebelius said, "yes, I do."

She faced questions on the issue as she testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. She said she would not support a health-care system run entirely by the government.

An exchange with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over the Obama proposal was perhaps the most heated in a low-key 2 1/2 -hour hearing. Sebelius pledged that if confirmed, "health reform would be my mission."

"Inaction is not an option. The status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable," said Sebelius, citing high health-care costs that she said are hurting families and crippling the economy.

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