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Sebelius resignation revives Obamacare fight

"Sebelius resignation revives Obamacare fight" Continued...

Of great concern for social conservatives, Sebelius, was unable at the hearing last October to answer a question about abortion coverage posed by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. Pro-life groups have discovered abortion coverage surcharges hidden in some of the new multi-state healthcare exchanges created by Obamacare.

Shimkus asked Sebelius if she would “commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer [abortion] are clearly identified … so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not?”

Sebelius’ response did not comfort pro-life Americans: “Sir, I … I don’t know. … I … I know exactly the, the, uh, um, issue that you are talking about. I will check and make sure.”

But Sebelius did, in March 2013, become one of the few Obama administration officials to admit that insurance premiums could rise as a result of Obamacare.

“Some people purchasing new insurance policies for themselves this fall could see premiums rise because of requirements in the health care law,” she told reporters at the time, in a prediction that has come true for millions of Americans. 

Lawmakers now move on to Burwell’s confirmation. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted that she is an “excellent choice.” Last year, the Senate voted 96-0 to confirm Burwell, a Harvard graduate and longtime Democratic staffer with stints in former President Bill Clinton’s administration, to her current post at OMB. But it’s doubtful all Republicans will be that easy on Burwell this time around, mainly because some will see her confirmation as a chance to make Democrats squirm over Obamacare.

“I hope this is the start of a candid conversation about Obamacare’s short-comings," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Virtually everyone who has come into contact with this law has had new reason to worry about what it means for the government to control their health care. Secretary Sebelius may be leaving, but the problems with this law and the impact it’s having on our constituents aren’t. Obamacare has to go, too.”

Obama’s team had hoped to put a coda on the Obamacare debate for the year with its April 1 Rose Garden party, during which they celebrated their claim that 7 million people had signed-up for insurance under the law. Without thanking Sebelius by name or asking her to stand beside him as he spoke, Obama said at that pep rally that Obamacare “is here to stay.”

“The debate over repealing this law is over,” he added.

But that celebration and the positive media coverage it was designed to trigger now seem like months ago in the ever-spinning political news cycle. Sebelius’ exit means the debate is just entering the next phase, months ahead of a crucial election.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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