Meet the Press   |  April 13, 2014

Sebelius talks Obamacare, Resignation

Andrea Mitchell’s full Meet the Press interview with outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on her tenure as secretary, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and what, if anything, she would do differently.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> in retrospect was it too complicated, too much to take on to create this enormous program, roll it out the way you did. should you have delayed the rollout and tried to get it right the first time.

>> i think there's no question, and i have said this many times, that the launch of the website was terribly flawed and terribly difficult. the good news was that we said it would be fixed in eight weeks. it was fixed in eight weeks, and we announced last week that 7.5 million people, most of them coming through the site, had enrolled. we're running the sites in 34 states through one situation, the hub, which all states connect to have worked flawlessly from the beginning. could we have used more time and testing? you bet. and i have said that from the start, but the site actually worked, and the great thing is there's a market behind the site that works even better. people have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market.

>> one of the things that has been written is that there was so much attention being paid as to whether the insurance companies would offer enough choices that not enough was paid to just the website, the technical side of it. do you think that's possibly what went on?

>> well, i think there are two things, andrea. there's certainly the policy team and setting this process up, trying to make sure we had competitive markets in every state around the country. and as you remember, you know, we didn't really know until about six months out how much states would actually run their own sites. who would be on their own. so this was kind of the moving target . so, yes, it took a lot of time on the policy side, on the market side, and there was a team in place with other people, outside experts coming in, kicking the tires, regular reports, regular dashboards on the tech side, but clearly the estimate that it was ready to go october 1st was just flat out wrong.

>> did the white house oversell it?

>> i don't think they did. i think what we said from the outset was, you know, this was fixing a very broken market where individuals really were on their own. if you were healthy and wealthy, you could get coverage. if you weren't, you were pretty much on your own if you didn't work for the right company. so that was fixed. we have millions of people, not only in the private marketplace, but millions more in expanded medicaid, which is going on around the country with republicans and democratic governors, and then there are a lot of underlying pieces which really to me are very exciting which go to beginning to fix the underlying health system that affects us all, whether or not you have insurance coverage with your employer or whether one of these newly insured folks.

>> along the way, what was your low point?

>> well, i would say that the eight weeks where the site was not functioning well for the vast majority of people was a pretty dismal time, and i was, frankly, hoping and watching and measuring the benchmarks but having failed once at the front of october, the first of december became a critical juncture of either it was going to meet the expectations the second time around -- i knew we didn't have a third time around, so that was a pretty scary date, and watching a lot of people come in and be able to be enrolled in december was very gratifying.

>> you know, the white house has been publicly very supportive, but then there's all the sort of back sniping. this is washington, after all. people are asking, were you pushed or did you jump?

>> well, actually i made a decision at the election that i couldn't leave along with a lot of my colleagues who left at the end of the first term. that did not seem to be even a topic to consider since there was still one more chapter in this affordable care act that needed to roll out and that had been one of my responsibilities as the secretary of health and human services . so staying on made good sense to me. i also thought that at the end of open enrollment was a logical time to leave . there is never a good time. there's going to be another open enrollment . there are changes down the road, but the president and i began to talk, you know, after the first of the year, and i went back to him in early march and said, you know, i'm really optimistic we're going to meet the targets, the enroll suspect going well, the site is working well. i think once we finish this first chapter, you really should begin to look for the next secretary who can be here through the end of your term, and that really wasn't a commitment i was willing to make, and he knew that.

>> did he try to talk you out of it?

>> well, i made it pretty clear that really wasn't an option to stay on. i thought it was fair to either commit until january of 2017 or leave with enough time that he would get a strong, competent leader.