WASHINGTON (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after the rocky rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, a White House official said Thursday.
Her resignation comes just over a week after the end of the first enrollment period for the Obamacare law. While the opening weeks of the rollout were marred by website woes, the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling more than 7 million people in the new insurance marketplaces.
Sebelius’ resignation following her five-year tenure in Obama’s Cabinet comes as the White House seeks to rebound from the politically damaging launch of the health care law. But it could also set the stage for a contentious election-year confirmation hearing to replace her, as Republicans seek to make the health law the centerpiece of their efforts to retake the Senate in the November midterm contests.
The official said Obama was nominating Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. The official was not authorized to discuss Sebelius’ resignation ahead of the formal announcement and requested anonymity.
Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, has been one of Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet officials. She was instrumental in shepherding the health care law through Congress in 2010 and implementing its initial components, including a popular provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.
But Sebelius’ relationship with the White House frayed during last fall’s rollout of the insurance exchanges that are at the center of the sweeping overhaul. The president and his top advisers said they were frustrated by what they considered to be a lack of information from HHS over the extent of the website troubles.
The White House sent management expert Jeffrey Zients to oversee a rescue operation that turned things around by the end of November.