Archive for Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kathleen Sebelius resigns from Obama Cabinet

April 10, 2014, 9:24 p.m. Updated April 11, 2014, 8:14 a.m.


FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2013 file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, accompanied by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaks about the federal health care overhaul during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia.

FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2013 file photo, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, accompanied by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaks about the federal health care overhaul during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia.

— For five years, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been a lightning rod for critics of President Barack Obama's health care law. But with sign-ups exceeding expectations and a new face soon to be in charge at HHS, the White House is eager to see if the poisonous atmosphere might give way to more pragmatic efforts aimed at fixing problems with the nation's newest social program.

Obama will announce Sebelius' resignation Friday and nominate his budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, as her replacement. The moves come just over a week after sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage under the so-called Obamacare law.

The opening weeks of the enrollment period were marred by website woes, straining ties between Sebelius and officials in the West Wing. Though the administration rebounded strongly and exceeded expectations by enrolling 7.1 million people by the March 31 deadline, the comeback wasn't enough to tamp down Republican criticism of Sebelius or boost the public's perception of the federal health care overhaul.

Enrollment has since risen to 7.5 million as people were given extra time to complete applications.

Even with the robust enrollment, huge implementation challenges remain. The administration has to improve customer service for millions of Americans trying to navigate the new system. And there's a concern that premiums may rise for 2015, since many younger, healthier people appear to have sat out open enrollment season.

On the political front, congressional Republicans remain implacably opposed to the Affordable Care Act, even as several GOP governors have accepted the law's expansion of safety-net coverage under Medicaid. GOP opposition means Republicans can be expected to continue to deny additional funds for implementation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell., R-Ky., welcomed Sebelius' resignation but appeared to indicate an openness to a dialogue with Burwell even as he declared that "Obamacare has to go."

"I hope this is the start of a candid conversation about Obamacare's shortcomings and the need to protect Medicare," McConnell said.

In nominating Burwell, Obama is signaling that he wants to avoid a contentious election-year fight to fill the HHS post. Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for her budget position and is well-liked by many Republican lawmakers.

A White House official confirmed Sebelius' resignation and Burwell's nomination but requested anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to do so by name ahead of the official announcement.

Obama remained publicly supportive of Sebelius throughout the rough rollout, deflecting Republican calls for her resignation. But she was not by his side last week when he heralded the sign-up surge during an event in the White House Rose Garden.

The official said the 65-year-old Sebelius approached Obama last month about stepping down, telling him that the sign-up deadline was a good opportunity for a transition and suggesting he would be better served by someone who was less of a political target.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican from Sebelius' home state of Kansas, called the resignation "a prudent decision" given what she called the total failure of Obamacare implementation.

Sebelius dropped no hints about her resignation Thursday when she testified at a budget hearing. Instead, she received congratulations from Democratic senators on the sign-up surge.

A popular former governor of Kansas, Sebelius has been one of Obama's longest-serving Cabinet officials and his only HHS secretary. She was instrumental in shepherding the health care law through Congress in 2010 and implementing its initial components, including a popular provision that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.

But Sebelius' relationship with the White House frayed during the fall rollout of the insurance exchanges that are at the center of the sweeping overhaul. The president and his top advisers appeared caught off guard by the extent of the website problems, with warnings from those working on the technology never making it to the West Wing.

With technical problems crippling online sign-ups after the Oct. 1 launch, the White House sent management expert and longtime Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients to oversee a rescue operation that turned things around by the end of November. After taking the helm of the project, Zients said management issues were partly to blame but did not point the finger at any individuals.

Sebelius took personal responsibility for the chaotic launch of the website and asked the HHS inspector general to conduct an investigation. That report is not expected for months.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch supporter of the health care law, praised Sebelius as a "forceful, effective and essential" secretary.

"Secretary Sebelius was a leader in the long effort to make history for our country with passage of the Affordable Care Act," the California Democrat said in a statement.

In nominating the 48-year-old Burwell, Obama is tapping a Washington veteran with a low profile and the respect of some Republicans on Capitol Hill. Though she only joined the Obama administration last year, Burwell held several White House and Treasury posts during President Bill Clinton's administration.

Between her stints in the executive branch, Burwell served as president of Wal-Mart's charitable arm and led the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Associated Press writers Erica Werner in Washington and John Hanna in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.


Steve Jacob 4 years, 1 month ago

Senate run? I hope so. Sure she is damaged goods, but she has a better shot then any other Democrat for Senate.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

Adding any Democrats sounds good but it will be useless until we get a majority in one of the chambers and/or a Democratic governor. The far right majority in the legislature requires at least that to balance the needs of the citizens and to try to undo the on-going damage from the current governor and legislature.

Jeff Cuttell 4 years, 1 month ago

We'll take her back. Maybe she can take a Senate seat.

Mike Ford 4 years, 1 month ago

it's people like you who live in total denial holding onto right wing lies that are the problem. I have ACA insurance. I had company insurance until February 2011. I couldn't get health insurance because of a minor pre existing condition. I now have silver BCBS insurance for my wife and I with a $3000 deductible and our insurance is $117.63 a month. I used it yesterday. I've had a fulltime job for 16 years and my wife works fulltime. We're not takers. We're tired of willfully ignorant people and repeated lies. Half of this country is so dumb that facts don't matter. What a shame.

Greg Cooper 4 years, 1 month ago

That about sums up the least expensive, highest deductible policy we have available where we work. Sometimes that is the best available choice for some people. What is your point? If the policy that matches this is available on the open market for a higher premium (which it is), it sounds as if ACA insurance is just as good a buy as otjhers available.

So, what did Obamacare accomplish? It gave some people the availability of catastrophic insurance that were unable to afford it before the act. Enough answer?

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

There is quite a bit about Obamacare you haven't heard about, apparently. For instance, it is reducing the donut hole in Medicare prescription insurance which primarily helps the elderly, and not just the poor elderly. Anybody who needs regular meds will benefit from that. This facet of it was one of the first things that started a few years ago. It is a great benefit for those who need it.

It has allowed college kids to stay on their parent's insurance. We've put a few through college and it was a huge addition to the cost of getting them through 4 to 6 years of college because we had to buy their policies separate. Many families have benefited from this.

Just about anybody over the age of 40 has a pre-existing condition. If you're on your company policy, you're fine. But if you are not they do two unconscionable things: 1.) They refuse to take you at all, or 2.) They go up so high on the price that you can't afford it.

Then, if you do take it at the very high price, they still won't cover your pre-existing condition. I've been there with one of my children who got sick and lost her insurance; and a sister who got cancer and her insurance went up so high she couldn't pay it. Those things will not happen anymore because of Obamacare.

There is more, but that's enough. You can almost hear the audible sigh of relief around this country from the people who have benefited. And those same people may have voted in the past for Republicans, but they will not vote for a candidate who promises to take that away from them.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

I'd like to add, when my husband and I retired and he reached the age of 65, his company and mine dropped him from our insurance policies. All he could do was go out on the market and buy a non-group policy which we found out would cost almost $1,000 a month because of his age and prior surgeries. That left him with nothing but Medicare insurance.

Obamacare is far from a good deal, but it is much better than we had before.

I fully expect that when the Republican Party implodes with the messes they're stirring up, and we get a majority in the house and senate and a Dem president, we will get the same good system other countries already have.

Greg Cooper 4 years, 1 month ago

"...what did this whole Obamacare accomplish...."

Well, it gave people who could not afford ANY insurance the opportunity to buy catastrophic care insurance at a price they can afford, that's what. The policy you quote is better than the high deductible, lower premium policy offered to us at work, so I guess that makes the ACA policy look pretty good.

You are making the assumption that everyone wants a $58 premium with a $25 deductible, and that won't work. At least these people now have some protection that they did not have before. And some people don't want the expense of "maintenance" policies so don't want to pay the price for "conventional" policies. That makes the ACA policy choice look pretty good.

Bottom line: the ACA is not a cure-all for high medical costs, nor is it a panacea for helping everyone have Cadillac policies for lower cost. What it is is a way for people who were unable to insure themselves before able to insure themselves and their families now, albeit with the risk of high deductibles. If you were looking to debunk the ACA as a cure for all insurance ills, you were looking in the wrong place or looking for a reason to debunk the act itself (and the President who shepherded it into existence). That's your right, but mis-stating the facts and ignoring the real world accomplishment of the act is just plain politics and not true in any sense.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

If I didn't have insurance at all, a high deductible would still be lower than the price of paying out of pocket.

Mike Edson 4 years, 1 month ago

She "resigned." That is code for she was fired.

Bob Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

And the wheels of the bus go round and round….

Richard Heckler 4 years, 1 month ago

Smart choice Kathleen Sebelius.

Come on back to Kansas. We love you!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 1 month ago

The GOP objectives are:

Killing public Education = handing over to private industry

Killing Medicare Insurance = handing over to private industry

Killing Medicaid Insurance = handing over to private industry

Killing Social Security Insurance = handing over to private industry

All of the above are victims of private industry as we speak. Most people know that private industry has long history of committing fraud against government funded services frequently.

Next : Killing the USA wage scale union or not at the expense of the USA economy

Next: Further Promotion of the Job Killing New World Order Global Economy at the expense of the USA economy

All the above financed somehow with OUR TAX DOLLARS = no risk and profits guaranteed

Rob Chestnut 4 years, 1 month ago

Regardless of the politics of the ACA, Kathleen Sebelius has tried to serve the public to the best of her abilities for several decades. I did not always agree with her politics, but she put forth the effort.

Teddy Roosevelt said it best > "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming..."

Kim Murphree 4 years, 1 month ago

Well said. And I heartily agree...although I have agreed with most of her politics and am grateful for her efforts on behalf of those who cannot always speak for themselves. So much easier to criticize than to actually LEAD and solve those problems.

David Klamet 4 years, 1 month ago

A rollout on that scale was bound to be the disaster that it was. If you work in the tech industry, you know that.


Among other reasons, no single person with adequate technical knowledge is ever in charge. Usually no single person with any day to day involvement is "in charge". In addition, the project is almost always split between multiple companies and locations so the coordination becomes a nightmare.

Without knowing any of the internal facts, I can guarantee that the project was hugely expensive, but that it was a gravy train for the companies involved.

All of that, despite what the Republican party has said, has no relationship to the value of the program itself.

Mike Ford 4 years, 1 month ago

I have the insurance. It looks like this area has a lot of uneducated spiteful people.

Bob Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

This area has a lot of people who are paying more for insurance that covers less so a few people can make out like bandits. Enjoy your gloating.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

Considering that I have shopped the Illinois, Indiana and Kansas exchanges, I can safely say they you are dead wrong. Kansas is by far the least expensive, and cheap by comparison to what I've paid for years prior to ACA. Surprisingly, Indiana (another wacko state) is the most expensive, one of the most in the country. Why, it's a combination of demographics, general health of the residents, and competition within healthcare providers and within insurance companies choosing to do business in the state. So if you want to know why some rates are high, go ask the insurance companies. We are talking about a 50% difference in rates. Do you seriously think that doctors and hospitals in Kansas charge 50% less than those in Indiana. Now, let me address your other point - stop being afraid of "others." They aren't stealing from you. They may be dumber than you. They may have made some bad life choices. They may even have kids that need healthcare. But this thing we call a civil society requires some cooperative effort, without too much judging whether everyone is doing their fair share. If you are living off the grid in your sod house out on the plains, great. Most of us don't. (Oh, and please make room for the Lesser Prairie Chicken - unless they too are a threat to you).

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Please provide specific examples for these "lots of people" who are "paying more for less." The AFP would really really like to know about it, since every time they've tried to make ads with real people, it's turned out that their examples melted away with a little fact checking.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

No kidding! But that's a well-kept secret on Fox and Limbaugh. There is no way their listeners would be told how many times the Koch boys have funded commercials with people who're lying through their teeth about how Obamacare hurt them, then they're found out and only the balanced or liberal sites will tell anybody about it. Finally, the Koch boys, so I understand, have pulled back on putting the liars out there in the first place. They're finding new ways to lie.

Chris Bohling 4 years, 1 month ago

She might be effective as a Senator. I thought she was a good governor but in hindsight she was clearly the wrong choice for HHS Secretary. Obama should have nominated somebody out of the tech industry to oversee the ACA rollout, not a career politician like Sibelius.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 1 month ago

She was the former insurance commissioner. Obama had her on the short list for VP. And the GOPs in the Senate demanded the scalp of Tom Daschle, the original HHS nominee. The GOP went after the ACA before anything was even proposed. They knew something was coming and that they were against it.

James Canaday 4 years, 1 month ago

her political viability in kansas was largely supported by abortion money. some of that is mercifully gone now. she won't run for anything from kansas. her firing is a symptom of the deep philosophical problems with the unaffordable care act. you diminish the supply and you say it will cut costs? riiiight.

also, all the "benefits" listed above by m. smith, just who do you think pays for all that?

and the 7.5million signed up, that will turn out to be a quite false number. why else is she fired? how many actually paid? the poor website doesn't even know.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

Doesn't everyone just love the flat out lies posted by nut case sites such as Fox and the druggie?

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

"some of that is mercifully gone now" - Sounds like you're referencing the assassination of a medical doctor at gunpoint while he was worshiping in church. Is that the case, James Canaday?

Mike Ford 4 years, 1 month ago

keep talking dumb. only the dumb repeat the lie.

James Canaday 4 years, 1 month ago

my doc, who only saved my life, is one of most docs opposing this. it puts in makework requirements which are in fact now harming medical care and record keeping. ... and btw, he is far from tea party in his politics: he has helped elect dems in the past. but he's quite entirely disgusted with the unaffordable care act.

even its proponents admit it will vastly exacerbate the shortage of docs. this will result in deaths of people who need quick care, as I have several times.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Doctors who perform abortions also save the lives of women and putting them in short supply will result in deaths.

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