Former Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in her first major remarks since resigning, said Tuesday that proponents of President Obama’s health overhaul were able to overcome “relentless obstruction” and even intimidation in states that rejected the health care law.
“You didn’t have the easiest jobs,” she told a crowd of nearly 1,000 pro-Obamacare officials and volunteers at conference in downtown Washington.
Mrs. Sebelius stepped down this month after the rocky web rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Battered for months by calls for her resignation, she handed the HHS baton to Sylvia Mathews Burwell on a relative high note after 8 million people signed up for private coverage on the law’s health exchanges.
On Capitol Hill, Mrs. Sebelius frequently sparred with the law’s critics. But on Tuesday, a standing ovation greeted her as a successful leader who oversaw the most sweeping changes to American health care in a generation.
“I want to tell you something, ‘This lady’s a hero,’” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Kentucky Democrat, said during a question and answer session. “I’ve never seen anyone take more abuse — undeserved abuse.”
In thanking Enroll America volunteers who signed people up for coverage, she delivered a rebuke to leaders in red states that did not embrace the reforms.
“It was harder in states where you were facing unbelievable odds,” she said, without naming Republican leaders such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The law’s foes say high deductibles and rising premiums will doom the law, and that government standards for plans caused heartburn for people who wanted bare-bones plans.
Mrs. Sebelius did not address these issues but did acknowledge the dark days of the rollout, when HealthCare.gov crashed and made it hard for resident of three dozen states to enroll.
Perhaps stating the obvious, she said the enrollment period would have gone better with a “fully functional” website.