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Secretary of Health & Human Services (2001-2005)
On January 24, 2001, the United States Senate confirmed Tommy G. Thompson as the 19th Secretary of Health and Human Services. He was sworn in on February 2, 2001 and served until January 26, 2005. As the nation's leading advocate for the health and welfare of all Americans, Secretary Thompson led the department which employed more than 60,000 personnel and had a fiscal year 2001 budget of $429 billion.
Thompson has dedicated his professional life to public service, most recently serving as governor of Wisconsin since 1987. Tommy Thompson made state history when he was re-elected to office for a third term in 1994 and a fourth term in 1998.
During his 14 years as governor, Thompson focused on revitalizing Wisconsin's economy. He also gained national attention for his leadership on welfare reform, expanded access to health care for low-income people, and education.
In 1996, Thompson enacted Wisconsin Works, or "W-2," the state's landmark welfare-to-work legislation, which served as a national model for welfare reform. The program required participants to work, while at the same time providing the services and support to make the transition to work feasible and permanent. W-2 provided a safety net through child care, health care, transportation and training assistance. Wisconsin's monthly welfare caseload declined by more than 90 percent, while the economic status of those taking part in W-2 improved. The average family on AFDC had been 30 percent below the federal poverty line. However, at the average wage of people leaving W-2, families were 30 percent above the poverty line.
More recently, Thompson worked to extend health insurance to many low-income children and families. As of November 2000, The BadgerCare program - Wisconsin's Medicaid/State Children's Health Insurance Program for uninsured families - had enrolled more than 77,000 individuals. In addition, Wisconsin's Pathways to Independence was the nation's first program to allow the disabled to enter the workforce without the fear of losing health benefits. The program provides ready access to a coordinated system of services and benefits counseling. As governor, Thompson also created FamilyCare, designed to help elderly and disabled citizens, and allow them to receive care in their homes for as long as possible.
Also as governor, Thompson created the nation's first parental school choice program in 1990, allowing low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice. He also created Wisconsin's Council on Model Academic Standards, which implemented high academic standards for English language arts, math, science and social studies. Thompson also made unprecedented investments in the University of Wisconsin System through building projects and initiatives to attract and retain world-class faculty while keeping tuition affordable for students.
Thompson began his career in public service in 1966 as a representative in Wisconsin's state Assembly. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. Thompson has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1997, he received Governing Magazine's Public Official of the Year Award, and the Horatio Alger Award in 1998. Thompson has also served as chairman of the National Governors' Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Midwestern Governors' Conference. Thompson also served in the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army Reserve.