KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius: Website Launch ‘Terribly Flawed And Terribly Difficult’

In an interview broadcast on "Meet the Press," the outgoing HHS secretary says the decision to leave office was hers.

The Associated Press: Sebelius: Health Care Launch 'Terribly Flawed'
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the administration's own predictions that the new health care law's online sign-up system would be ready by Oct. 1 were "just flat out wrong." Sebelius told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview airing Sunday the health care website's launch was "terribly flawed and terribly difficult." She says that eight-week period was her low point of her tenure (4/13).

Reuters: Sebelius Says She Told Obama Staying 'Wasn't An Option'
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned last week, says she made the decision to leave and told President Barack Obama last month that staying on "wasn't an option" (Morgan, 4/13).

The Hill: Sebelius: Pressure After Rollout Was 'Awful'
In candid remarks about the healthcare rollout, Sebelius said she regretted not asking different questions when was under construction. "If I had a magic wand and could go back to mid-September and ask different questions based on what I know now," I would, she said. "I thought I was getting the best information from the best experts but clearly that didn't go well." ... "That was very alarming" when crashed for the first time, she said, "because that took some real diagnostics in terms of what the problems where and then analysis" about whether the system could be fixed (Viebeck, 4/13).

Politico: Sebelius Says Departure Was Her Choice
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says her departure after Obamacare’s first, rocky open enrollment period was her own choice and that it was "a logical time to leave." "The president and I began to talk, you know, after the first of the year," Sebelius told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview that aired Sunday on "Meet the Press." "And I went back to him in early March and said, 'You know, I'm really optimistic we're going to meet the targets and the enrollment is good, the site is working well. I think once we finish this first chapter you really should begin to look for the next secretary who can be here through the end of your term.’ And that really wasn't a commitment I was willing to make. And he knew that" (Titus, 4/13).

NBC video: Sebelius Talks Obamacare, Resignation

Several outlets examine how Sebelius' resignation rolled out.

The New York Times: Sebelius’s Slow-Motion Resignation From the Cabinet
The White House frustration with Ms. Sebelius crystallized by Thanksgiving, as it became clear in Washington that she would eventually have to go. Republicans were brutalizing her at congressional hearings. The health care website's problems were consuming the White House. ... But three things put off Ms. Sebelius’s departure: Mr. Obama’s fear that letting people go in the middle of a crisis would delay fixing the website; his belief that ceremonial firings are public concessions to his enemies; and the admiration and personal loyalty that Mr. Obama still felt for Ms. Sebelius and her advocacy for his chief domestic legacy (Shear, Calmes and Pear, 4/11).

Politico: The Kathleen Sebelius Sendoff: Everybody Wins
The White House isn't just celebrating the big Obamacare recovery and the 7.5 million signups for health coverage. They’re also breathing a quiet sigh of relief that they were able to ride out another huge political problem: how to let Kathleen Sebelius quietly slip out the door. ... The idea that Sebelius can still claim full credit for the health care law’s achievements isn't going to fly with a lot of the public. Obamacare opponents — and some angry Democrats — insist that Sebelius had to go. She was, after all, the Health and Human Services secretary who let the broken website go live — and define Obama’s signature program with an image of incompetence. But now, because of the timing, some liberals could actually push back against the "Sebelius leaves because of failed website" storyline. What failure, many of them asked on Friday? She helped bring health care to more than 7 million people (Nather, 4/11).

The HHS shake-up also sparked some political give and take on the Sunday shows.

Politico: Whitehouse: HHS Swap Probably 'A Good Thing'
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Sunday praised the leadership changes at the Department of Health and Human Services as the Obama administration emerges from the first, rocky enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act. The Rhode Island Democrat commended outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, even as some Democrats were privately frustrated by her management, And he suggested a "new face" was likely a positive step (Titus, 4/13).

Politico: Blackburn: Sebelius Resignation Won't Stop Obamacare Fight
The Obamacare fight isn't going anywhere, Republican Rep. Marcia Blackburn of Tennessee said Sunday. The resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, won't stop Republicans for continuing to hammer the Affordable Care Act. Blackburn argued that it will likely heighten criticism (Summers, 4/13).

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