More than a year after the enormous uproar caused by the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is weighing in on her rocky tenure — and on the controversial comments by Obamacare consultant Jonathan Gruber that have grabbed recent headlines. The whole USA Today interview is worth watching, but here’s a quick highlight reel:
On whether she felt like a scapegoat for the failures of Healthcare.gov:
Kathleen Sebelius: No. I think that I was the CEO of a big company with an important rollout and health care.gov was something that had been promised to work smoothly, to work like you were buying an airline ticket using your app on your computer. Instead it worked like buying an airline ticket using your fax machine.
On the description of Jonathan Gruber as an architect of the health care law:
KS: Dr. Gruber could be regarded as the architect of Romneycare, but he was a consultant, one of many, on the issues around how to frame the subsidies ... I know our staff did [meet with him] and I think he met with various advisers, but I did not meet with Jonathan Gruber. … Maybe he was in a large room, he could have been on a phone call. But in terms of small meetings, discussing policy, that never happened.”
On whether she's concerned about what Gruber might say when he testifies next week before a House committee:
KS: Well, clearly he is not a very articulate with the phrasing he uses. I have no idea what Dr. Gruber is going to say. But frankly I don’t think that it’s relevant in terms of his personal opinions of what happened. He was not author of the bill itself. He didn’t influence the members of Congress who actually wrote the legislation. He is making some headlines, which is unfortunate because I think he’s harming the very product that he helped to push forward.
...Every sentence, every syllable, every misstep, every opportunity to have adversaries of this law say, "See we told you," is leapt upon. What I have found frustrating is there has never been a time in which those same individuals acknowledge the successes.
On whether ACA supporter Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was right to say it had been a mistake to focus on the health care law for the first two years of President Obama's tenure:
KS: Chuck Schumer may not be the only one who said this was a mistake. There were certainly people very close to the president who said, Go small. Do a handful of children and get out. Do some 55-year-olds and get out. Move this along. And at every point along the way the president would ask the assembled group, is there a chance to get a comprehensive bill passed? And if so we have to take that chance. This is a moment I don’t want to miss.
On whether Obamacare would be worth losing control of the House and Senate over:
KS: Well first of all I don’t know that the 2014 midterm elections are related directly to the Affordable Care Act. ... But was it worth it? You bet. I think that leader Pelosi said it best when she said we’re not here to keep a job, we’re here to do a job. And this was long overdue.