After the federally facilitated insurance exchange system — the cornerstone provision of the Affordable Care Act — launched last October to numerous software errors and design flaws that significantly hampered the enrollment process, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the person responsible for the functioning of Healthcare.gov, drew much of the blame. Republican lawmakers called for President Barack Obama to remove her for weeks. But she stood her ground, and the president defended her. Now, after exchange enrollments have surpassed the Obama administration’s highest target, the president’s healthcare boss is resigning, White House officials announced Thursday.
During a Friday morning speech in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama named Sylvia Mathews Burwell — current director of the Office of Management and Budget — as his nomination to replace Sebelius. “After five years of extraordinary service to our country, and seven and a half million Americans who’ve signed up for health coverage through the exchanges, she’s earned that right [to step down],” Obama said. “She’s got bumps. I’ve got bumps, bruises,” he added. “But under Kathleen’s leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got [the federal healthcare website] fixed, got the job done, and the final score speaks for itself.”
The HHS secretary told lawmakers Thursday that more than 7.5 million Americans had enrolled in private insurance policies through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, beating an estimate of seven million made by the Congressional Budget Office before the marketplaces launched. To the Obama administration, reaching 7.5 million enrollments means success; a target surpassed.
In her resignation speech, Sebelius described her involvement in the implementation of health reform as “the most meaningful work I’ve ever been a part of,” and thanked the president for giving her the opportunity to participate. “Critics and supporters alike are benefiting from his law,” she stated.