It turns out April 1 was Kathleen Sebelius's high-water mark. That day, President Obama announced that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Notably, Sebelius wasn't by Obama's side as he made the Rose Garden announcement. And now she's leaving the administration after five years as secretary of Health and Human Services. The president will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her.
Officially, Sebelius made the decision to resign and was not forced out. And while that may be narrowly true, she was clearly out of favor in the administration. With Sebelius leaving, the White House can try for a reset on healthcare, just as benefits are beginning and the law seems to be back on track. And her departure might offer the Democrats some political distance from Obamacare's turbulent launch ahead of the midterm elections.
Even though enrollment spiked just before the March 31 deadline and reached the 7 million goal the White House had originally set, Healthcare.gov was a tremendous embarrassment for the Obama Administration. Though the president had suggested buying insurance through the exchange would be like shopping on Amazon, the site wasn't nearly ready when it went live: The exchange melted down with even moderately high numbers of users, data weren't transmitted correctly, and major parts of the site's infrastructure still aren't built.