It has been a difficult year for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Though 2014 began with the promise of industry-changing healthcare reform, Healthcare.gov got off to a rocky start, and the recent ICD-10 delay was an unexpected obstacle that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did not expect to have to contend with. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ conspicuous silence after that delay now makes sense with the news that Sebelius has resigned from her post within the Obama administration.
According to the Associated Press, even the late surge for Healthcare.gov that has seen nearly 7.5 million people enroll in the program was not enough to buoy Sebelius’ political stock, and President Barack Obama signed the resignation letter from the five-year head of the HHS April 10. A White House official told the AP that Sebelius had initially approached Obama in March about the possibility of her stepping down after the March 31 Healthcare.gov enrollment deadline. While the identity of the next secretary of the HHS does not seem to be in question, the challenges Sebelius’ successor must face are much less clear.
Why Sebelius resigned
In the wake of the resignation of Obama’s first and only HHS secretary, health care professionals are left to scramble with another unknown, in addition to the uncertain and unresolved fate of ICD-10. Regardless, several industry veterans shared their opinions on the outgoing HHS head with Health Data Management.
William Bernstein, chair of the health division at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, praised Sebelius for successfully overseeing one of the most transformative periods in U.S. health care. He specifically cited the impressive enrollment numbers for Healthcare.gov and the extensive yet managed spread of Medicaid to more states than before she took office.
“Always candid and factual, she is a model public servant whose leadership and values will be missed,” Bernstein added.
John Moore, managing director of Chilmark Research, was less laudatory of Sebelius’ attempts at healthcare reform.
“Not all was perfect though, and there were some snafus along the way, including the terrible launch of Healthcare.gov, the still questionable expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars on statewide health information exchanges, the continued delay of ICD-10 and a still untested market appetite for accountable care organizations,” Moore told Health Data Management.
According to The New York Times, Obama is expected to nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, current director of the Office of Management and Budget, for Sebelius’ vacant cabinet seat. The nomination could come as early as April 11.