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With little opposition, Senate advances Bogen as Health secretary

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(The Center Square) — After serving as acting secretary of health for 18 months, Debra Bogen is one step closer to getting confirmed.

On Thursday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to recommend Bogen to be secretary of health, moving her nomination to the Rules and Executive Nominations Committee before she’ll face a vote on the Senate floor. A two-thirds vote is required for her nomination to be confirmed.

“Dr. Bogen is a tremendous individual, wonderful person, tremendous professional, an exceptional physician whom I know will represent our commonwealth with great integrity,” Sen. Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh, said. “I don’t think we could find someone who is better qualified, who has committed the past 18 months to improving the Department of Health.”

The affirming vote comes after Gov. Josh Shapiro recalled her nomination in June 2023 when Republican lawmakers did not support it. Since then, Bogen has served as “acting secretary” rather than under the “secretary” title.

Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Greenville and chair of the committee, pressed Bogen on how she saw the legislature’s role in making policy.

“You are the elected officials and you set the laws of our commonwealth,” Bogen said. “Our role in the department is to fulfill those laws as you set them forth. It’s important to understand what the intent of those laws are and to work with you as we promulgate regulations.”

The acting secretary argued that her biggest accomplishments so far have been working to improve the “frayed relationships” with the state’s EMS agencies (who have complained of an “adversarial” state bureau). She also pointed to the department’s work on rural health to “collaborate across agencies” and implementing regulations on the state’s long-term care facilities.

“I think you’ve certainly proved your mettle in terms of how you’ve run the Department of Health,” Sen. Judy Schwank, D-Reading, said.

Bogen has also been involved in pushing a health-care approach to dealing with the commonwealth’s opioid crisis.

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