U.S. Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down, news broke last night. Hours earlier, Sebelius told members of Congress that an estimated 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health insurance through the state and federal exchanges created under 2010 health care reform law. A statement from the HHS department hailed her "work on Head Start, to expanding mental health coverage, to advancing cutting-edge health care research and, of course, her unwavering leadership in implementing the Affordable Care Act."
Naturally, instant commentaries on Sebelius' departure have highlighted the disastrous rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. I thought she should have resigned last fall. Even though the technical failure wasn't entirely her fault, someone should have been held accountable. Igor Volsky took a more generous view, praising Sebelius' work with Republican governors on alternatives to Medicaid expansion. She also convinced some of them, including Iowa's Terry Branstad, to "form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces."
All in all, I think Sebelius could have done the country more good by staying in Kansas. As governor, she could have continued to block new coal-fired power plants and veto lunatic bills coming out of the state legislature. Plenty of people could have done at least as well, if not a better job, running HHS and implementing the Affordable Care Act.
What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?
President Barack Obama will appoint Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius. Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein reported, "Although Burwell does not have an extensive background in health-care policy, she is known for her strong management skills and has experience in issues of poverty and global health issues from her time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Moreover, she is popular on Capitol Hill. The Senate confirmed her as OMB director 96 to 0 almost exactly a year ago." Some Republicans are already praising her, and in any event, the 60-vote threshold for confirming presidential appointees no longer applies in the Senate.