President Barack Obama this morning nominated Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Sebelius--the public face of the botched HealthCare.gov rollout--stepped down from her post today after five years of service, as FierceHealthcare reported last night.
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Burwell currently serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Obama made the announcement shortly after 11 a.m. today. He said Sebelius will go down in history for her "extraordinary" leadership and "serving as the secretary of the Health and Human Services when the United States of American finally declared that quality, affordable healthcare is not a privilege but a right for every single citizen of these United States of America."
The President acknowledged the rough patches of implementing HealthCare.gov but said that because of Sebelius' work, her team at HHS turned the corner and got the website fixed. "They got the job done and the final score speaks for itself. There are 7 ½ million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for the first time and that' s because of the woman standing next to me."
Obama also credited her work for helping to slow down in the growth of healthcare costs--it's slowest growth in 50 years. Furthermore, he said Sebelius worked with the Department of Justice to "aggressively pursue healthcare fraud and returned billions of dollars, record sums, to the Medicare trust fund."
Although critics have long blamed Sebelius for the problems associated with the messy launch of the government website rollout, Obama stood by her for months, and last week the administration boasted that the signups for healthcare insurance reached more than 7 million by deadline day, exceeding expectations.
However, Obama approached Sebelius about her future last month, White House Chief of Staff Denis R. McDonough told the New York Times. According to McDonough, Sebelius targeted March 31--the deadline for sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)--as a good "time to transition" leadership.
"She's made clear in other comments publicly that she recognizes that she takes a lot of the incoming," McDonough told the Times. "She does hope--all of us hope--that we can get beyond the partisan sniping."
Obama's decision to replace Sebelius with the 48-year-old Burwell may help temper the continued bickering over the ACA, ABC News reports, as she is well-liked by Republican lawmakers and the Senate unanimously confirmed her last year for her current budget position.
Although Burwell has a low profile, she held several White House and Treasury posts during President Bill Clinton's administration, according to her WhiteHouse profile. She also served as president of Wal-Mart's charitable arm and oversaw the global development program for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Before her federal government service, she worked for McKinsey & Company. Burwell served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations and MetLife. She received bachelor of arts degrees from Harvard University and Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
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