Sebelius: Health care launch 'terribly flawed'

April 13, 2014 by Philip Elliott
President Barack Obama hugs outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as he stands with Vice President Joe Biden and his nominee to be her replacement, Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Friday, April 11, 2014, in the Rose Garden f the White House in Washington. The moves come just over a week after sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage under the so-called Obamacare law.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The Obama administration's timeline for having ready the new health care law's online sign-up system "was just flat out wrong," outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview that aired Sunday.

The departing health chief also said the two months when the federal healthcare.gov website was plagued with technical problems were "a pretty dismal time" and the low point of her five-year tenure. But she defended the law's impact and said millions of Americans now have access to health care because of it.

"People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market," said Sebelius, who last week announced her resignation.

Republicans demanded that Sebelius resign last October after the flawed launch of the law which is Obama's signature domestic policy achievement. They have tried to make "Obamacare" the key issue in November's national election when control of Congress will be at stake.

Sebelius acknowledged the rocky rollout for the online sign-up system fraught with technical problems that left Americans frustrated.

"Clearly, the estimate that it was ready to go Oct. 1 was just flat out wrong," Sebelius said.

HealthCare.gov was envisioned as the principal place for people to buy insurance from private companies— made more affordable by government subsidies —under Obama's . But its first few weeks were an embarrassment for the administration and its allies, resulting in a drop in the polls for Democrats and a revival of Republican prospects in the 2014 election even though the party was blamed for last year's unpopular partial government shutdown.

"Well, I think there's no question—and I've said this many times—that the launch of the website was terribly flawed and terribly difficult," Sebelius said.

Obama set a Dec. 1 deadline to have the website repaired, a move that left Sebelius nervous, she said.

"Having failed once at the front of October, the first of December became a critical juncture," she said. "That was a pretty scary date."

Sebelius' resignation comes just a week after sign-ups for insurance coverage on federal and state exchanges ended, enrolling 7.1 million people and exceeding initial expectations. Enrollment has since increased to 7.5 million as people were given extra time to complete applications.

The departing secretary said she decided after the 2012 presidential election that she wanted to leave the administration but decided to stay through the initial sign-up period for the new program. Sebelius said Obama did not try to convince her to stay through the end of his term.

"I thought it was fair to either commit till January of 2017 or leave with enough time that he would get a strong, competent leader," Sebelius said.

Obama has nominated White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius.

Sebelius spoke to NBC television's "Meet the Press."

Explore further: Obama shuffles deck to cement health law gains

Related Stories

Obama shuffles deck to cement health law gains

April 11, 2014
President Barack Obama on Friday nominated budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his new health secretary, seeking to capitalize on an enrollment surge to cement his signature health law.

Kathleen Sebelius resigns after Obamacare woes

April 11, 2014
President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, paying the price for the chaotic initial rollout of his signature health care law, officials said Thursday.

Health secretary: 7.5 million now signed up

April 10, 2014
Enrollment for the president's health care law has grown to 7.5 million Americans, the Obama administration announced Thursday, handing the president and his Democrats better numbers to tout in the face of election-year attacks.

2.1 million sign up for 'Obamacare' health insurance

January 1, 2014
More than 2 million people have signed up for private health insurance through President Barack Obama's signature reform after a botched rollout, the US government said Tuesday.

US asks for inspection of flawed Obamacare website (Update)

December 11, 2013
President Barack Obama's top health official Wednesday called for an investigation that could reveal deeper problems lurking behind the botched rollout of the Obamacare website.

Health law sign-ups growing but goal still elusive

February 13, 2014
Wide disparities are emerging among U.S. states in health insurance sign-ups, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal enrollment statistics released Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.