WASHINGTON — Kathleen Sebelius likes her healthcare plan. Unfortunately, she cannot keep it after stepping down as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The ink was barely dry on the outgoing secretary’s letter of resignation when President Obama announced that he would nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the White House budget office to lead the department going forward. As the Senate prepares for what will likely be acrimonious confirmation hearing for Burwell, the Office of Personnel Management is handling the bureaucratic nightmare of closing out Sebelius’s federal benefits.
Lawrence Livington, the director of human resources, explained that Sebelius would lose her $201,700 annual salary as a Cabinet member, as well as her eligibility for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
“Secretary Sebelius more than earned a break from the rigors and ridicule associated with her handling of the Affordable Care Act’s rollout,” said Livington. “I just hope she doesn’t break anything that would require long-term medical treatment, at least not until she is able to enroll in comprehensive coverage.”
Until that time, Sebelius “won’t be completely on her own,” claimed Livington, noting that the secretary also has Medicare Part A coverage for hospitalizations. However, unless she renounces her Medicare coverage—a costly proposition—she will not be able to enroll in the federal health insurance exchange she helped implement and risks having to pay for long-term care out of pocket.
“The end of open enrollment was a logical time to leave. There is never a good time,” maintains Sebelius, “and I’ll just have to play it safe without employer-sponsored coverage. No more fumbling rollouts or skydiving, that’s for sure.”
The secretary is hopeful for the future of her healthcare plan. “There’s gonna be another open enrollment. There are changes down the road,” Sebelius told Andrea Mitchell on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
Mitchell pointed out to her television audience that the secretary was currently nursing more than a few bruises. “People are asking, ‘Were you pushed or did you jump?’ ”
To this, Sebelius responded, “Oh those? That’s only a cosmetic problem—one that is completely fixable. Hold me accountable for the bumps and bruises. I’m responsible. It was nothing more than a minor stumble at the beginning of one giant step towards greater overall health and wellbeing that brought me down.”