HealthCare.gov woes: Will Obama throw Kathleen Sebelius under the bus? (+video)
President Obama said Monday 'nobody's madder than me' about the problems with HealthCare.gov. But he didn't mention Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who faces calls for her resignation.
President Obama didn’t surprise anyone with his expression of frustration Monday over the troubled rollout of his signature policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
In Rose Garden remarks, Mr. Obama highlighted the benefits of the law, which will allow many Americans unable to buy health insurance to get coverage. The president was flanked by people who have enrolled in the program, or plan to, as well as people helping consumers learn about the law.
But it’s the massive problems with HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace that is handling enrollment for 36 states, that have made headlines. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been unable even to get to Step 1 on the site. Obama laid out alternative ways to enroll, including by telephone.
“Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed,” he said.
Noticeably absent from Obama’s remarks was any mention of Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services since the start of his administration and his top advocate for the law. (She was seated in the front row at Obama’s Rose Garden statement, not up at the podium with him.) Over the weekend, as HHS was putting out word that it was bringing in “the best and brightest” to implement a “tech surge” to fix HealthCare.gov, numerous Republican senators called for her resignation.
The GOP outpouring against Secretary Sebelius might in fact only cause Obama to circle the wagons and keep her in her job, if he even has a notion of letting her go. Plus, firing her at this crucial moment in the Obamacare rollout doesn’t do anything to further his goal of fixing the site as quickly as possible. The clock is ticking: Anyone who wants his or her health coverage to begin on Jan. 1 must enroll by Dec. 15.
Furthermore, finding a new HHS secretary and then getting that person through a Senate confirmation would be a huge political challenge.
Still, the president faces growing embarrassment over the problem-plagued rollout, and he may at some point feel the need to do something dramatic to save public confidence in his new health-insurance program.