Departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged Sunday in a televised interview that the timeline for rolling out HealthCare.gov was wrong and the technical glitches that plagued the website were the lowest point of her five-year tenure.
Although the New York Times reports that the White House knew by Thanksgiving that she would eventually have to leave the post, Sebelius said in an interview with NBC's Meet the Press that she decided to step down after the 2012 elections. She said she thought the end of the first open enrollment period was a logical time to leave.
Staying on as the HHS secretary "wasn't an option," she told reporter Andrea Mitchell.
"The President and I began to talk, you know, after the first of the year. 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. While 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," Sebelius said.
Although Sebelius is leaving at a relatively high point--the website now functions properly and more than 7 million people enrolled in the federal health insurance exchange by the March 31 deadline--she said the Oct. 1 go-live date was "just flat-out wrong" and that the eight weeks following the website rollout were a "pretty dismal time."
However, she defended the Affordable Care Act and pointed to the fact that millions of previously uninsured Americans now have access to healthcare because of it. "People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market," she said.
Sebelius announced on Friday that she would resign from her position and President Barack Obama nominated his budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace her. Burwell is well-liked by Republican lawmakers and industry experts think she'll easily receive confirmation to the post.
However, Republicans will likely use the confirmation hearings to once again call for a repeal of healthcare reform, according to Fox News. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told the publication that Sebelius' resignation won't solve the problems associated with the Affordable Care Act.
"The next HHS secretary will inherit a mess--Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations. No matter who is in charge of HHS, ObamaCare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans," he said.
Meanwhile, Burwell will face major challenges if she's confirmed as the new HHS secretary, The Hill reports. Among them: Burwell can expect to become a target for partisan attacks as Republicans try to take control of the Senate in November; she faces a learning curve in learning the ins and outs of healthcare policy; and she will need to lead the charge of expanding Medicaid.