- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2014

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who led the rocky rollout of Obamacare and surprised D.C. observers by stepping down this week, said that if President Obama wanted to talk her out of leaving, he didn’t even get the chance.

“I made it pretty clear that that really wasn’t an option, to stay on,” Mrs. Sebelius told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview aired Sunday. “I mean, 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.”

Mr. Obama tapped his budget chief, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to replace Mrs. Sebelius. She faces a Senate confirmation process that will serve as a platform for partisan sniping over Obamacare.

Although 7.5 million people signed up for health plans by the end of enrollment this month, the glitch-laden debut of HealthCare.gov last October still looms large.

“The launch of the website was terribly flawed and terribly difficult,” Mrs. Sebelius told NBC. “The good news was that we said it would be fixed in eight weeks. It was fixed in eight weeks.”

Mrs. Sebelius downplayed suggestions the rollout team focused on policy and not the technical aspects of the rollout, noting fragmented nature of the exchange system.

“We didn’t really know until about six months out how many states would actually run their own sites, who would be on their own. So this was kind of a moving target,” she said.

Mrs. Sebelius served in Mr. Obama’s cabinet for five years, staying on after his 2012 reelection to shepherd the health care law in its key years. But late 2013 brought her darkest days.

“I would say that the eight weeks where the site was not functioning well for the vast majority of people was a pretty dismal time. And I was, frankly, hoping and watching and measuring the benchmarks,” she said, noting the Dec. 1 deadline to fix the site was a “scary date.”

“And watching a lot of people come in and be able to be enrolled in December,” she added, “was very gratifying.”

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