After holding tight to her position as Health and Human Services Secretary for five years, Kathleen Sebelius resigned earlier this evening.
Sebelius became a household name in the fall for her role supervising the troubled rollout of the Healthcare.gov website and the general failure of President Obama’s signature healthcare law thus far.
The White House announced that tomorrow Obama will nominate Syliva Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget to succeed Sebelius – a name that few know today, but will certainly come to recognize once she takes over.
According to reports, Sebelius was not forced out and chose to resign on her own recognizance. That said, her decision to leave coincides with a major push by the Obama administration to move past the early failures of the healthcare law, especially in light of the upcoming midterm elections wherein the law will feature prominently.
One of her last acts as HHS Secretary was to testify before the powerful Senate Finance Committee wherein she touted that 7.5 million people had enrolled in private insurance plans – half a million more than the original CBO projections.
Unsurprisingly, the Republican response to Sebelius’s resignation was cold and snarky:
“I thank Secretary Sebelius for her service. She had an impossible task: nobody can make Obamacare work,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tweeted.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus called Sebelius’s oversight of the healthcare law “disastrous.”
He echoed Cantor’s sentiments, adding that no matter who is in charge of the law, Obamacare is doomed to never be anything but a failure.
The White House hopes that Ms. Burwell will be at least part of the answer to their healthcare woes.
“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 R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff.
I personally know Sylvia well and worked with her in the Clinton administration. I believe that she offers the prospect for the hard-headed administrative oversight and direction that Sebelius was clearly unable to provide.
To be sure, it is good news for the President and the law itself that there will be a new face to represent it that does not harken back to the early days of failures.
But Sebelius’s departure should not be considered as a fix to a law that has real and enduring problems.
We still don’t know how many of the enrollees aren’t those who lost coverage as a result of the law. And there are a number of reforms – including being able to purchase coverage across state lines, expanding the use of health savings accounts for those with high deductible plans and tort reform amongst others – that should be implemented in order to maximize effectiveness of the law.