Updated | 11:15 a.m. EDT: President Barack Obama praised outgoing Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for helping to steer his health care law’s comeback after a rocky rollout, even as he nominated a successor aimed at helping the White House move past the political damage.
“Under Kathleen’s leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done,” Obama said in a Rose Garden ceremony Friday morning. “And the final score speaks for itself.”
About 7.5 million people have enrolled in the health law, exceeding expectations after website woes stymied sign-ups for weeks.
Obama nominated his budget chief, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to replace Sebelius, calling her “a proven manager” who knows how to get results. The nomination of Burwell, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for her current post last year, appeared aimed at avoiding an election-year confirmation fight.
“Last time, she was confirmed unanimously,” Obama said. “I’m assuming not much has changed since that time.”
Over the past five years, PBS NewsHour has covered the many twists and turns of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, and its botched rollout. And Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, has been the face of both its successes and failures. This week, she announced that she’s resigning. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been tapped to replace her.
In November, Sebelius was called before Congress to defend the crippling problems at Healthcare.gov. In her testimony, she apologized, proclaiming herself “accountable for fixing the problems.”
But the tide turned last week, when the president announced that enrollment in the new insurance marketplaces had exceeded 7 million.
For a look back, here is Sebelius at the Democratic National Convention, when she called the ACA “a badge of honor”:
And back in 2011, she answered viewers questions on the health care exchanges, which, she promised, would offer Americans “competition, choice and clout.”
This highlight reel shows the early days of health care reform, including Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from the health czar nomination and lawmakers’ rambunctious town hall meetings in their home districts: