Sebelius Never Told Obama of Healthcare.gov's Woes Despite 18-Plus Meetings? Really?


Obama and Sebelius
National Institutes of Health

After the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius publicly insisted that the president learned of the website's woes along with the rest of the country—on October 1, 2013, and thereafter as the slow-motion train wreck occupied public attention. But it turns out that Sebelius and Obama met many times in the year leading to the Obamacare portal's launch—"including at least seven instances in which the two were scheduled to discuss the new healthcare law." Did somebody forget to pencil a few important items on the agenda? Or is the administration just full of shit?

Back in October, Sebelius told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that Obama learned of trouble with the Healthcare.gov implementation and launch in "the first couple of days" after the site went live. She specifically denied that he had any hint of trouble earlier.

But The Hill's Kevin Bogardus and Jonathan Easley report:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in frequent contact with President Obama and senior White House aides before the disastrous launch of the federal ObamaCare exchange last year.

While Sebelius has said the president was not aware of HealthCare.gov's problems, more than 750 pages of documents obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request show she made scores of visits to the White House.

The documents reveal that Sebelius met with or attended calls and events with Obama at least 18 times between Oct. 27, 2012, and Oct. 6, 2013, including at least seven instances in which the two were scheduled to discuss the new healthcare law, according to the secretary's draft schedules.

She had breakfast or lunch with Pete Rouse, considered one of Obama's closest advisers, at least three times. Moreover, Sebelius had scheduled calls or meetings with Valerie Jarrett, an Obama confidante, and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Sebelius also met with or had calls with Chris Jennings, then a White House senior healthcare adviser, at least seven times in the roughly yearlong period.

Now, it's possible they just said "fuck work" and discussed favorite plot lines from Community (you know that Barry thinks he's a Jeff Winger, but he's really more of a Ben Chang.) But I suspect at least a little shop talk made its way into the chatter from time to time.

Of course, Healthcare.gov is just the public face of Obamacare despite the great many woes besetting the Affordable Care Act independent of the Internet. Maybe, instead of the disastrous website, they were discussing its impact on health costs, or employment, or taxes, or the availability of care