Kathleen Sebelius (65), Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, resigned on Thursday a few months after the disastrous rollout of the ‘Obamacare’ website, healthcare.gov, which became a magnet for criticism of the President’s landmark Affordable Care Act.
Although Republicans, many of whom have been fiercely critical of the healthcare reform policies of the White House, called for Ms. Sebelius’ resignation last fall, she ended her five-year tenure only after the enrolment period ended at the end of last month.
A White House official noted that Mr. Obama would formally make announce that Ms. Sebelius would step down on Friday and that he would also nominate the White House Budget Office Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell to replace her, subject to Senate confirmation.
“The President wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” said Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff.
He added that Last month, Ms. Sebelius had approached Mr. Obama earlier and said to him that the March 31 deadline for sign-ups under the healthcare law “provided an opportunity for change,” and that he would be “best served by someone who was not the target of so much political ire.”
Ms. Sebelius departs from the Obama administration as strong favourite of top Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who defended the Secretary’s record, saying, “From Day One, [Ms.] Sebelius has remained laser-focused on a single purpose: to make health care a right, not a privilege, for all Americans. Her leadership has been forceful, effective and essential.”
Notwithstanding the controversy over the healthcare.gov website, which at points appeared to collapse under the sheer momentum of enrolments last year, Ms. Sebelius also departs with at least part credit for exceeding the ‘Obamacare’ enrolment targets to more than 7.5 million people.
However the website controversy has apparently come at a high political cost for the President and his party, leading to Democrats’ poll numbers to plunge from its highs during the 2013 government shutdown. Some predict that the issue may also fuel Republicans’ midterm elections campaign this November.