Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Dignity Health, cited Sebelius among those he personally finds most influential. In noting how Sebelius has steered the nation toward a system that expands access and rewards value over volume, Dean said Sebelius has “built the moral case, the business case and the societal case for healthcare for all.”
“Even with all the politics that have been presented in Washington, she continues to fight the fight, continues to listen to providers, payers and consumers, and has not lost the faith in the importance of healthcare for all,” says Dean, who placed No. 34 in the Most Influential rankings.
While healthcare reform may be better known now as Obamacare, Dean said the efforts of Sebelius will gain more appreciation as the years pass. “In my opinion, she's one of the silent heroes,” Dean says. “Her leadership, when we look back at this in a decade from now, will be recognized. And she will be recognized as someone whose courage and steadfastness were responsible for making progress in serving this nation with affordable, quality healthcare.”
Sebelius is a former insurance commissioner of Kansas and a former governor of the state. Her father, John Gilligan, served as governor of Ohio from 1971 to 1975. In 2002, Sebelius became the first daughter of a governor to become a governor herself when she was elected in 2002 to become the chief executive of Kansas. She was re-elected four years later but left that office in 2009 when President Barack Obama picked her as his choice for HHS Secretary. (Obama, who has topped the Most Influential list twice, ranks No. 3 this year.)
Her leadership and influence also received praise from Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for health information technology from 2009 to 2011, who says he is a great admirer of Sebelius.
“She's doing a great job under difficult circumstances in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” says Blumenthal, now president of the Commonwealth Fund and No. 93 on this year's ranking. “I think she's a steady hand at the wheel under enormous pressure. No one has experienced as much ferocious opposition to implement a law as she and the current administration are facing.”