Kathleen Sebelius Resigning as Health Secretary
Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.
U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.
No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.
Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.
Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”
Sebelius Said to Resign as U.S. Health Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.
The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.
A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.
Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.
Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”
Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.
The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”