Does the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius as head of HHS signify the end of a tumultuous phase of the Obamacare debut? A recent report in the Christian Science Monitor says President Obama will attempt to nudge budget director, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, towards accepting the nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CSM story by Linda Feldman also outlines how repeatedly Sebelius faced varying criticism for the misfortune-plagued web-based healthcare system.
While accepting responsibility for perceived ACA failings of HHS, the Obama administration, at one point, mulled scrapping the Healthcare.gov website. Moreover, Sebelius seemed surprised by Obamacare roll-out issues. Even beyond preliminary website malfunctions, Obamacare remains controversial. Anyone thinking Sebelius’ resignation will even mildly quiet Obamacare opposition, may want to consider a position rethink. Republicans will continue to cry ‘Obamacare’ as Democrats battle to hang on to a Senate majority. The CSM article quotes David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, who recently told Reuters that Sebelius’ resignation “is just going to embolden Republicans.”
The departure of Sebelius will put Burwell (the new nominee), as well as the Affordable Healthcare Act, squarely back in the hot seat. While a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, she has only served as budget director since April, 2013. If Burwell is confirmed, she will still have her political work cut out for her. Healthcare.gov is arguably functioning, but the website is due to go through extensive upgrades in preparation for the next enrollment period, beginning November 15. Additionally, insurers will be setting rates for next year.
Republicans are steadfastly entrenched in their respective positions that the ACA should be both defunded and scrapped. Ironically, Democrats could now also pose a challenge for Burwell, as they face uphill re-elections.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney maintains the Obama administration has confidence in HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – this following the commotion-filled Obamacare rollout of fall, 2013, and also after the HHS Secretary was conspicuously absent during the announcement about the latest purported 7.1 million ACA enrollment number. Carney also added, President Obama “has had and has confidence in the Secretary of Health and Human Services”, that she “was at the front of the line, getting to work”, righting the Obamacare website, now widely known for technical foul-ups. “Those were hard days for a lot of folks who bore the responsibility of making the Affordable Care Act a success”, said Carney, adding: “But the response, to a person, was not to point fingers of blame but to roll up their sleeves and get to work fixing the problems.” Carney has also advised reporters to not read things into Sebelius’ absence when he announced that the most recent ACA enrollment figures (supposedly) surpassed initial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates: “I think you’re obsessing on something that I promise you needs not obsession.” In the fall of 2013, some lawmakers, including Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) asked Obama to discharge the HHS secretary over the troubled debut of Obamacare. Also, during a Senate hearing, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) pointedly told the secretary she should quit after she had: “put our entire healthcare system and one-sixth of our economy in jeopardy.” At that time, Sebelius countered her Republican opposition by retorting they are “people I don’t work for.”
During the ACA “rollout victory lap” in the Rose Garden, Obama took a swipe at the press, “who were too eager to spotlight every incremental development associated with the site’s botched launch.”
Polarizing rhetoric heats up again over Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. This time it’s by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who on Tuesday, February 25, 2014, accused Republican governors of “playing politics with people’s lives.” Interviewed on HuffPostLive, Sebelius further blasted GOP state chief executives, describing their decisions as “an outrage”. The Secretary called out Rick Perry and his state, claiming 23 percent of Texans have no health insurance. Republican governor Rick Scott of Florida at first backed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, or at least supported an alternative, which would in part customize the ACA to a state’s specific needs, but changed his mind as he announced he was running for reelection.
GOP governors and legislators argue current Obamacare policy would deplete state coffers by increasing Medicaid rolls, they also fear the federal government won’t follow through on funding assurances.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her staff may be continuing their efforts to secure private contributions to assist an outside group in touting the President’s healthcare law. These efforts are geared toward boosting low enrollment numbers during the glitch-ridden fall, 2013 rollout.
Last May similar efforts asking business executives and non-profit organizations to donate to Enroll America caused negative reaction among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Two GOP-led committee investigations began, and several Republican senators demanded the HHS inspector general investigate as well. Sebelius’ efforts have been referred to as a “shakedown for cash.”
Watchdogs still can’t agree whether Sebelius has violated any federal fundraising laws.
According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “there is absolutely no evidence” the Affordable Care Act will negatively impact employment; this comment comes despite a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicting fewer people working. Sebelius has described such findings as a “myth”.
The CBO report claims the healthcare law will cause Americans to decrease their working hours. This equals some 2 million fewer jobs by 2017.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, in an interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, claimed that testimony by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius confirmed that “Obamacare’s implementation challenges are getting worse by the day.”
After noting the huge number of delays, errors, and faulty information plaguing the Obamacare website, Hatch, 79, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, called for monthly progress reports on the program and demanded enrollment figures during testimony Health and Human Services Secrtary Kathleen Sebelius.
Sebelius also admitted that convicted felons might have been hired as Obamacare “navigators” — a job that would give them access to the personal information of people signing up for healthcare coverage. The federal government does not require background checks for the navigators, she said.
“There’s no guarantee that the data being submitted over HealthCare.gov is 100 percent secure,” Hatch said
Hatch also noted that many people can’t retain their favorite doctors, and that “If you get kicked off your health insurance and dumped into the exchanges, the chances of you being able to find an affordable plan that has your personal doctor in its network are not looking good. The fact is that it’s a disaster.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in an interview with Newsmax TV, calls the Obamacare rollout a “multi-hundred-million-dollar disaster,” and that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be held accountable and lose her job.
Gringrich also feels that the Republican Party could do “very, very well” in 2014 because of the “failure” of the current adminstration.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday, June 24, 2013, that the National Football League (NFL) has been “very actively and enthusiastically engaged” in discussions about helping encourage people to enroll in newly available insurance plans under Obamacare.
The HHS is also in talks with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to promote Obamacare.
The Obama administration is preparing for a massive public relations push during the summer of 2013. New insurance exchanges in each state must be open on October 1, 2013 to begin enrolling people in coverage that would begin January 1, 2014. The administration must counter public opinion of Obamacare, which is negative, along with misconceptions about the law.
Two decrees from Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s secretary of HHS, highlight Democrats’ principal healthcare goals for Obamacare: to redistribute money and to move away from insurance and toward pre-paid health care, preferably controlled by a federal government monopoly (“single-payer” health care).