Friday, April 11, 2014

Kathleen Sebelius resigns amidst triumphant success of Obamacare

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Emphases mine:

-- The New York Times: "Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act."

-- The Wall Street Journal: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who led the government's troubled rollout of the 2010 health-care law, will step down, her spokeswoman confirmed Thursday, capping a rocky five years in the Obama cabinet.

-- USA Today: "After a difficult five years shepherding President Obama's signature health care law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has tendered her resignation, according to two senior administration officials."

-- Politico: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning six months after a disastrous rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health law, according to administration sources.

See what's going on here? From how the story is being reported in the media (and these are but four major examples), you'd think Sebelius was a disaster as HHS secretary because the Obamacare rollout, which is apparently all that matters about Obamacare, was a disaster. End of story.

Were there early tech glitches that stalled the rollout and delayed sign-ups and made it seem as if Obamacare was in trouble (at least because that's how the media were treating it)? Sure. But, first, I just don't think that Sebelius should be held singularly responsible for what happened. Furthermore, second, the rollout was not the only thing that happened during her tenure; aside from any number of other HHS matters, there has also been the entirety of Obamacare development and implementation to date. And, third, the glitches were fixed, the rollout was smoothed out, and Obamacare has gone on to be, thus far, a huge success.

Yes, a huge success.

Because whatever Republicans say, however much they may lie and distort in their to-the-death efforts to destroy Obamacare (because they don't give a shit about the uninsured, or about genuine fiscal responsibility, which requires getting health costs under control, but also because they know it will be huge electoral winner for Democrats once fully implemented and part of the social fabric of America, like Social Security), the numbers are the numbers. Millions of people have signed up for affordable health insurance, the number of uninsured Americans has already gone down dramatically, and health care costs are declining significantly.

Does Sebelius deserve a great deal of credit for this? Of course. And Obamacare's success is far more important to assessing her tenure as HHS secretary than the glitchy rollout.

Five years is a long time to be in the position, and perhaps it was time for her to move on. And it does appear that Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a solid choice to replace her, not least given the enormous task of managing and budgeting Obamacare going forward -- though I do wonder if she has the political chops to promote Obamacare not just within the broader public but to Democrats who should be running on its success and ambition in the midterms).

But Sebelius deserves our gratitude and our applause. And that's in large part because Obamacare, with which she will forever be linked, has proven to be a triumph.

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