Biden appoints Dr. Rachel Levine as deputy health secretary

President-elect Joe Biden announced this week that he has nominated Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Levine would be the first openly transgender person to be confirmed for a federal nomination by the US Senate.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will provide the consistent leadership and critical expertise we need to help people through this pandemic – regardless of zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. disability – and meet the public health needs of our country at this critical time and beyond,” said Biden in a statement.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

Levine, a pediatrician who is also a professor at Penn State College of Medicine, is currently Pennsylvania’s top health official. Prior to that, she served as the state’s medical officer.

As Biden’s statement notes, Levine has been confirmed to office three times by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania state legislature.

As Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine made the state’s opioid crisis a primary focus of his work, writing a standing order for the general public to have access to naloxone.

In 2019, she also said she would work with the legislature to legalize safe needle programs, community-based prevention programs that can provide a link to treatment for substance use disorders; access to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment; and vaccination, screening and linking to the care and treatment of infectious diseases, among other services.

More recently, Pennsylvania became the first state to include information on sexual orientation or gender identity in its collection of data on COVID-19 patients.

“We’ve had challenges in terms of reporting, but we’re adding to that the reporting of sexual orientation and gender identity to the (national electronic disease surveillance) system,” Levine said at the time. “So we would like as much data as possible on all patient demographics with this disease.”

As noted by LGBTQ+ journalist Kate Sosin for The 19, many anti-LGBTQ HHS rules enacted under the Trump administration can be difficult reverse quickly during a Biden presidency.

In June 2020, HHS moved to roll back protections for trans people under the Affordable Care Act, alarming providers who feared LGBTQ people would avoid sharing their identities with clinicians for fear of harm. discrimination.

“Any time you think identifying yourself is going to get you in trouble or put you in danger, it creates a culture of fear,” Heather Hitson, SOGI project manager at UCLA Health, said last June. “That’s absolutely what we don’t want.”

THE GREAT TREND

Levine’s appointment follows a wave of other health care appointments by the Biden administration.

In December, Biden named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the HHS. Becerra helped pass the Affordable Care Act and led the defense of the law in the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2020. Biden also named Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, as well as Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, the President-elect tapped Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as Chair of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force; former White House and Pentagon senior adviser Natalie Quillian as deputy COVID-19 response coordinator; and Jeff Zients for the COVID-19 Response Coordinator. In 2013, Zients led the charge to fix the Healthcare.gov riddled with errors website.

REGISTRATION

“Dr. Rachel Levine is an outstanding public servant who has the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people,” Vice President-elect Kamala said. Harris in a statement.

“President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with her to address the unprecedented challenges facing Americans and to rebuild our country in a way that uplifts everyone,” she said.

Kat Jercich is editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
E-mail: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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