U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw both a troubled initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s website and a surge of higher-than-expected enrollment numbers after those troubles were resolved, is resigning on Friday.
President Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. White House Chief of Staff Denis R. McDonough told the New York Times that Obama wanted “a proven manager and relentless implementer” for the health services job, and that Burwell fit the bill.
Obama stood by Sebelius amid intense public pressure and calls for her resignation after the HealthCare.gov website’s troubled launch. He told NBC News in November that Sebelius didn’t write code and “wasn’t our IT person.”
Shortly before news broke of her resignation, Sebelius was on Capitol Hill testifying that over seven million people have signed up for private insurance through the new exchanges. That’s not including an estimated five million or more people who are now covered through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expansion, and at least 9.5 million people who did not previously hold insurance are estimated to have gained coverage under Obamacare.
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McDonough told the Times that Sebelius is not being forced out, and that she saw the enrollment surge leading into the March 31 deadline as a good opportunity to bow out and let someone who was less of a political target take her place.
Sebelius told the Times on Thursday that she has never expected to “be here to turn out the lights in 2017,” and that her decision to leave was mostly a question of deciding the timing.