Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Friday called for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for showing "gross incompetence" in the “disastrous” rollout of President Obama’s signature healthcare law.
Roberts called the problems with the insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act “systematic, profound and indisputable, [and] yet the secretary won’t shoot straight with the American people,” referring to Sebelius’ cringe-worthy appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Steward” Monday, when she called the exchange websites “user-friendly.”
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"They can see Obamacare has failed them,” Roberts said in a statement. “We need a secretary who can admit when enough is enough."
Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas, has defended the administration's launch of the health insurance exchanges even as reports rolled in about people complaining of long delays to sign up – or not being able to sign up at all because the healthcare.gov website crashes.
"Nobody wants Americans to have to wait to sign up," she wrote in an op-ed column Tuesday for USA Today
"Engineers are working day and night to make upgrades. We're adding more servers to enable the system to handle larger loads. And we're upgrading our software as well, to make the system more efficient and enable it to handle higher volumes."
But Roberts said “from the very beginning . . . I have said this cannot work.”
“Just today, one of my Kansas newspapers, The Wichita Eagle, summed it up best by writing, ‘that market is worthless when it’s like a grocery store that blocks shoppers at various points along the aisles and lacks functioning checkout counters.'
“The American people should not have to tolerate the chaos of the exchange, or the ill effects of Obamacare for one more day,” he added. “They are already suffering in a terrible economy. They have higher taxes, higher premiums and great uncertainty about access to quality healthcare. We need a secretary who realizes that.”
The Obamacare site has become more functional in the last five days as HHS rushes to make improvements, The Hill reported
And though the Obama administration cites heavy traffic as a good sign for the marketplaces, it won’t release enrollment figures until the end of the month.
Roberts’ call for the HHS secretary’s resignation is a jarring break in relations between the two.
USA Today noted Roberts said at Sebelius' confirmation hearing in 2009 that they enjoyed a "special relationship." Roberts, in addition, was once a congressional aide to Keith Sebelius, the secretary's father-in-law — and considers him his "godfather" in politics, the newspaper reported.
Roberts, a third-term senator, faces a tea party challenger, Dr. Milton Wolf, in the primary.
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