WASHINGTON — Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan wants Dr. Gail R. Wilensky, a medical economist, to become chief of the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs, department officials said today.
The White House is considering Wilensky and could formally announce her nomination soon if she clears background checks, the officials said.
If nominated by President Bush and approved by the Senate, Wilensky will take over the Health Care Financing Administration, which oversees the $130-billion Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Wilensky, 46, is a vice president of Project Hope, a Chevy Chase, Md., foundation that trains health care workers in poor countries and provides emergency medical care.
She conducted a 1982 study that concluded that the government spends as much on health care for the poor as for the well-to-do, when tax breaks for health insurance and medical payments are factored in.
Wilensky would be the third person chosen for the job since the Bush Administration took office.
Sheila Burke, chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) withdrew from consideration in April. Her husband is vice president of the Aetna insurance group, which handles Medicare claims under contract to HHS. Sources said there were fears of a potential conflict of interest.
Last month Drew Altman, New Jersey human services commissioner, decided not to seek the job after drawing opposition from conservative Republicans.