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U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns
April 11th, 2014
WASHINGTON – After enduring harsh criticism over the flaw-filled launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace website, Kathleen Sebelius has resigned as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
News of Sebelius' departure emerged late Thursday. President Barack Obama reportedly plans to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius.
A former Kansas governor, Sebelius was sworn in as HHS secretary in April 2009. Her time as head of HHS coincided with the passage and implementation of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law. Sebelius came under fire last fall for the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance exchange website.
Republicans in Congress were especially critical of what they saw as her lack of leadership shepherding through what they saw as an ill-conceived, ill-advised law. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, for example, characterized her last October as the "laughingstock of America."
But Sebelius, who insisted that America shouldn't abandon the legislation, also admitted that Obama didn't know of the website's many technical problems until "the first couple of days" after it went live on Oct. 1. The website's performance did improve significantly — surpassing an administration goal with an estimated 7.5 million enrollees — and prompted the calls for her resignation to die down.
Earlier this month, in a letter to department employees, Sebelius reflected on ACA enrollment exceeding its target of 7 million as evidence of "the progress we've made, together," while stating "our work is far from over."
According to senior Obama administration officials, Sebelius told Obama that she thought the enrollment period would end well and, after that, she planned to step down. Even granted the initial uproar over the website, her decision to resign was on her own accord, the officials said.