For months critics of Obamacare's disastrous October rollout insisted President Obama show he was serious about holding his underlings accountable by firing someone for messing up. He didn't. But now, six month later, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has submitted her resignation. She cited Obamacare's roll-out as the reason, displaying what it means to "move at the speed of government."
Although Sebelius' departure removes one prominent target for Obamacare critics, Reason's Peter Suderman notes it's not all, or not just, her fault:
Maybe—probably—Sebelius doesn't deserve all or even the majority of the blame for the administration's health law screw-ups. But regardless of her impact, as the most visible official associated with the law aside from President Obama, she deserved to be shown the door—or at least be given the opportunity to show herself out. Suderman notes that Sebelius was merely the face or "front person" for Obamacare, and while she may have been its "worst flack," others are to blame for the Obamacare disaster too. Most of them have escaped accountability. For example one official largely responsible for the administrative effort related to Obamacare was able to quietly leave for a cushy lobbying job in January.
Over at Time magazine, meanwhile, Reason's Nick Gillespie explains how Sebelius' incompetence helped fuel mistrust of government and skepticism about how much power it should wield. Sebelius famously compared her efforts to launch Obamacare to Apple's product launches. Despite the federal government spending more than $667 million on the design and implementation of Obamacare Sebelius claimed she had fewer resources than Apple for the Obamacare launch. Gillespie concludes:
Sebelius's abrupt resignation, then, is the fitting capstone of a cabinet tenure that did nothing to inspire feelings of competency and trust in government in a century that is so far replete with revelations of bipartisan secret surveillance, financial mismanagement of the nation, and failed foreign policy.
We deserved better than Kathleen Sebelius. And we should demand more from our public officials with the same vigor we do when buying, say, Apple products. Gillespie also flagged the reaction of Ezra Klein, the columnist who is now heading Vox.com, an effort at non-ideological "deep journalism." Here's Klein's explanation of why Sebelius, who said she was resigning because of the botched Obamacare rollout, actually resigned:
Obamacare has won. And that's why Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius can resign…
The evidence has piled up in recent weeks that the strategy worked. Obamacare's first year, despite a truly horrific start, was a success. More than 7 million people look to have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges. Millions more have signed up through Medicaid. And millions beyond that have signed up for insurance through their employers.
Healthcare.gov isn't perfect, but it works. We don't yet know how many young people signed up in March, but it's clear that there are enough of them to keep premiums stable in 2015. It's clear that insurers are going to stick with the program in 2015, and compete hard to sign up next year's wave of young, healthy applicants. The White House's announcement on who would replace Sebelius, Suderman noted, was also a veiled criticism of the outgoing health secretary:
Even the statement by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on her replacement, current Office of Management and Budget Chief Syliva Burwell, sounds more like a knife in the back than a fond farewell. "The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia," McDonough said on Thursday.
The clear implication here is that Sebelius was none of those things. And certainly, judging by last October's botched launch of the federal health insurance exchange, it's an easy and obvious judgment to make about her work for the administration. The Wall Street Journal calls Burwell "one of the most experiences officials in Obama's White House" and reports that she's spent the last several months as budget office chief "trying to slowly repair frayed relations between the White House and congressional Republicans on tax and spending policy."