Kathleen Sebelius

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Kathleen Sebelius
Kathleen Sebelius official HHS portrait.PNG
Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
April 28, 2009-April 10, 2014
Elections and appointments
NominatedMarch 2, 2009
ConfirmedApril 28, 2009
AppointedApril 28, 2009
Appointed byBarack Obama
Prior offices
Governor of Kansas
Kansas Commissioner of Insurance
Kansas State Representative
High schoolSummit Country Day School
Bachelor'sTrinity Washington University
Master'sUniversity of Kansas
Date of birthMay 15, 1948
Place of birthCincinatti, Ohio
ReligionRoman Catholic
Kathleen Sebelius (b. May 15, 1948, in Cincinatti, Ohio) was formerly the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius was sworn into office on April 28, 2009, the same day she was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 65-31, as the Obama administration declared a public health emergency for the swine flu.[1] Sebelius was President Obama's second choice for the position after former Senator Tom Daschle withdrew from nomination after controversy over his tax records and field of work.[1] On April 10, 2014, Sebelius resigned following the troubled Healthcare.gov website rollout, a key feature of the Affordable Care Act. Upon her resignation, Sebelius stated that she would like to take the animosity toward the Obamacare rollout with her, explaining, "If that could just leave with me, and we could get to a new chapter, that would be terrific."[2]

She has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate to challenge Pat Roberts (R) for the Senate seat in Kansas in 2014.[3] On April 17, 2014, a spokeswoman for Sebelius said that she was not interested in running.[4]

Sebelius began her political career as a Kansas state legislator in 1987, and she also served Kansas as insurance commissioner and governor before becoming the Secretary of Health and Human Services.[5] She is the daughter of former Ohio governor John Gilligan, making them the first father and daughter to hold the position of state governor.[5][6]


Born Kathleen Gilligan, Sebelius was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended the Summit Country Day School.[7] She graduated from Trinity Washington University before earning a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas.[5]


Below is an abbreviated outline of Sebelius' academic, professional and political career:[5][7]

Confirmation vote

Sebelius was confirmed as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services on April 28, 2009, by a vote of 65-31. All dissenting votes were cast by Republican senators, while eight Republicans voted in favor of confirmation.[8]

Kathleen Sebelius confirmation vote, April 28, 2009
Party Votes for Approveda Votes against Defeatedd Total votes
Democratic Party Democrats 55 0 55
Republican Party Republicans 8 31 39
Independent Independents 2 0 2
Total Votes 65 31 96



See also: United States Senate elections in Kansas, 2014

Sebelius has been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate to challenge Pat Roberts (R) for the Senate seat in Kansas in 2014.[3]

On April 17, 2014, a spokeswoman for Sebelius announced that she was not interested in running for the Senate seat.[4]

“Secretary Sebelius is continuing her important work at H.H.S. and is not considering a run for the Senate,” the spokeswoman said.[4]


Sebelius won re-election as Governor of Kansas on November 7, 2006, by a margin of 17.5%, defeating Jim Barnett (R), Carl Kramer (L), Richard Lee Ranzau (Reform) and Randal G. Trackwell (write-in).

Kansas Governor, 2006
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngKathleen Sebelius Incumbent 57.9% 491,993
     Republican Jim Barnett 40.4% 343,586
     Libertarian Carl Kramer 1% 8,896
     Reform Party Richard Lee Ranzau 0.6% 5,221
     Write-in Randal G. Trackwell 0% 4
Total Votes 849,700
Election Results via Kansas Secretary of State

Full history


ACA lawsuits

See also: Obamacare lawsuits

Sebelius was named in both the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius. The NFIB case was argued in June 2012 and the law was upheld over a challenge under the Commerce Clause. That decision was 5-4.[9] Sebelius resigned prior to the Hobby Lobby decision but was in office when the case was argued by Department of Justice Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. The case was decided on June 30, 2014, in favor of Hobby Lobby. Four types of contraceptives were ruled to be exempt from employer mandated healthcare.[10]

Meetings with Barack Obama

The Government Accountability Institute found in December 2013, that between July 12, 2010, and November 30, 2013, President Obama's public schedule had no one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius, who was in charge of implementing his "most important initiative." During that timeframe there were 277 meetings with other cabinet members. In response to the claim that the two had not met over that period of time, Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, "Cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the visitor logs."[11] A Department spokesperson backed up Carney's statements, claiming, "She is frequently at the White House for meetings related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including dozens with the President in the last year alone. In fact, she met with the President just yesterday."[12]

The Hill released the findings of a Freedom of Information Act request on February 13, 2014, showing evidence of 18 meetings between October 2012 and October 2013. Seven of those meetings were specifically on the topic of Obamacare. When questioned by the news outlet on why President Obama was not aware of the website problems, a HHS Department spokesperson responded, "She is frequently at the White House for meetings on a wide range of topics, including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As we have also said, the Affordable Care Act is more than just a website, and consistent with other significant policy initiatives, there was coordination across the Administration on a broad range of policy and implementation topics."[13]

Healthcare.gov rollout

See also: Healthcare.gov website rollout

Pat Roberts calls for Sebelius' resignation.

The launch of the Healthcare.gov website featuring the federal healthcare exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act was met with error messages, faulty information being sent to insurers and problems with direct enrollment through insurance companies.[14][15][16] At an October 10, 2013, promotional event for the website, Sebelius stated, "Believe me, we had some early glitches, but it's getting better every day."[17] Sen. Pat Roberts called for Sebelius' resignation over the struggling website on October 11, stating, "Enough is enough. Today I am calling on Kathleen Sebelius to resign her post as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Secretary Sebelius has had three and a half years to launch Obamacare, and she has failed."[18] Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce committee on October 30, 2013. During testimony, Sebelius stated: "In these early weeks, access to HealthCare.gov has been a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans, including many who have waited years, in some cases their entire lives, for the security of health insurance."[19][20] Officials have not released an estimated timeframe for fixes.[21]

On October 23, Rep. Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH) called for an extension of the open enrollment period while the administration attempted to fix the problems, while Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV) was already drafting a bill to delay the individual mandate for a year.[22]

Contracting practices investigation

On December 11, 2013, Sebelius asked the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department to open an investigation into the contracting practices involved in the Healthcare.gov website. She said the investigation's results would help to prevent future issues like happened with the website rollout. She also announced the creation of a chief risk officer position in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.[23]

Rite Aid partnership

On September 9, 2013, Sebelius announced a partnership with Rite Aid to promote the Affordable Care Act throughout the country. The company promised to place insurance agents at 2,000 of the chain's 4,600 locations nationwide. Agents are not to be affiliated with the insurers offering new exchanges, but they do receive commission on each policy taken out. Rite Aid also receives a commission per policy. Sebelius commented on the agreement, stating, "We weren't ever going to make this program work from Washington. This has to be an on-the-ground effort. Americans trust their pharmacists. Often the pharmacist is the on-the-ground health provider people see the most and know the best, so having this critical role in a pharmacy makes wonderful sense."

Steve Lonegan, a New Jersey candidate for U.S. Senate, spoke out against the agreement, stating, "If Rite Aid and the other big companies are so enthusiastic and think this is such a great plan, let it stand on its own two feet."[24]

Organ transplant lists

In late May 2013, Sebelius was involved in debate over transplant lines for adult lungs. Policy requires that children under 12 in need of a lung transplant be placed at the bottom of the waiting list for adult lungs, while being placed at the top of the transplant list of childrens' lungs, though they are more rare. Ten year-old Sarah Murnaghan of Pennsylvania was in need of a lung transplant due to cystic fibrosis. She had been on the pediatric lung transplant list for 18 months. Sebelius ordered a review of the policy, but stated she "can't imagine anything worse than one individual getting to pick who lives and who dies."[25] On June 5, 2013, a federal judge ordered Sebelius to allow Murnaghan to be added to the adult lung transplant list, giving her a higher probability of receiving a transplant, after hearing oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by Murnaghan's parents. A change to the policy would allow about 20 children annually to be added to the adult waiting list consisting of 1,600 patients. Dr. Arthur Caplan of the New York University Langone Medical Center explained that the reasoning behind the policy is that children generally fair worse than adults after the procedure. Caplan worried that the precedent set by the court ruling could result in politicizing medical judgements.[26]



Sebelius vetoed legislation tightening the requirements and authorizing lawsuits against providers of late term abortions in 2009, just prior to filling the office of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, as well as vetoing similar bills in 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2003.[27][28]


Sebelius held the environment as a high priority while governor. She established Kansas "Green Teams" in 2005, aiming to encourage state employees recycle, cut down on waste and use environmentally friendly products. As part of a joint effort, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment launched the "Get Caught Recycling!" contest in 2006.[29]

In 2008, Sebelius vetoed legislation intended to overturn the administration's rejection of permits for two coal-fired power plants in western Kansas. Proponents of the legislation claimed that vetoing the bill would mean higher energy costs for Kansans.[30] Months later, Sebelius called for a stronger federal commitment to renewable energy sources while speaking at an American Wind Energy Association conference.[31]


Sebelius vetoed concealed carry laws in 2004 and 2006, claiming, "While every law-abiding Kansan has a right to keep and bear arms, hidden weapons make it harder for law enforcement to do it's job, and they make Kansas' workplaces less safe."[32][33]

In 2008, Sebelius signed into law a bill legalizing the possession of fully automatic weapons, which had been banned since 1933. The bill mainly benefited collectors and dealers delivering weapons to law enforcement agencies.[34]

Same-sex marriage

Sebelius did not support an April 2005 amendment to the Kansas Constitution that made same-sex marriage in the state unconstitutional. Sebelius said she supported the existing state law outlawing same-sex marriage, viewed it as sufficient, and therefore opposed the constitutional amendment. The amendment passed with 69 percent voter approval.[35]


Department budget

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services[36] Annual Budget
YearBudget (in billions)% Difference from previous year
  • Note: 2014 only represents the Department's budget request, not an enacted budget.

Net worth

See also: Changes in Net Worth of U.S. Senators and Representatives (Personal Gain Index) and Net worth of United States Senators and Representatives


Based on congressional financial disclosure forms and calculations made available by OpenSecrets.org, Sebelius' net worth as of 2011 was estimated between $502,004.00 and $4,864,998.00. That averages to $2,683,501.00, which ranks 17th among executive branch members.[37]


She is married to Gary Sebelius, a federal magistrate judge, with whom she has two sons.[5]

Recent news

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Kathleen Sebelius News Feed

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External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 CNN, "Sebelius sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary," April 28, 2009
  2. New York Times, "Health Secretary Resigns After Woes of HealthCare.gov," April 10, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 NY Times, "Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat," accessed April 16, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 NY Times, "Sebelius Says She’s Not Interested in Senate Run," accessed April 21, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Biography: HHS Secretary," accessed June 7, 2013
  6. Governing, "Former Ohio Gov. Gilligan Dies," August 27, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Biography.com, "Kathleen Sebelius biography," accessed June 6, 2013
  8. GovTrack, "On the Nomination," April 28, 2013
  9. Christian-Science Monitor, "How John Roberts upheld health-care law while limiting congressional power," June 28, 2012
  10. Christian-Science Monitor, "Hobby Lobby 101: explaining the Supreme Court's birth control ruling," July 10, 2014
  11. Politico, "When Barry Met Kathy," December 5, 2013
  12. Politico, "Jay Carney pushes back on Kathleen Sebelius report," December 6, 2013
  13. The Hill, "Before O-Care debacle, Sebelius made many trips to White House," February 13, 2014
  14. Chicago Tribune, "Computer glitches, overloads hit health care exchanges," October 1, 2013
  15. Bloomberg, "Insurers Getting Faulty Data From U.S. Health Exchanges," October 8, 2013
  16. Politico, "Another obstacle to signing up for ACA crops up," October 21, 2013
  17. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Sebelius visit fails to reassure as health care website glitches persist," October 10, 2013
  18. Youtube, "Senator Roberts Call For Secretary Sebelius to Resign," October 11, 2013
  19. CNN, "Sebelius: 'I apologize, I'm accountable' for Obamacare website flaws," October 30, 2013
  20. Politico, "Kathleen Sebelius offers to testify on Obamacare," October 22, 2013
  21. Politico, "Tech 'surge' to tackle Obamacare websites," October 20, 2013
  22. NBC News, "Obama administration clarifies dates related to health care rollout," October 23, 2013
  23. Wall Street Journal, "Sebelius Calls for Review of Healthcare.gov Contracting Practices," December 11, 2013
  24. ABC News, "Kathleen Sebelius launches ObamaCare effort with Rite Aid in New Jersey," September 9, 2013
  25. Politico, "Kathleen Sebelius at center of storm over child's lung transplant," June 4, 2013
  26. Fox News, "Dying girl intubated as she awaits lung transplant," June 10, 2013
  27. New York Daily News, "Kansas Gov. Sebelius vetoes bill on late-term abortions; US Health and Human Services Sect. bid hurt," April 24, 2009
  28. Rasmussen Reports, "A Vice President for Abortion," May 26, 2008
  29. Project Vote Smart, "Sebelius Encourages State Workers to Get Caught Recycling!," July 22, 2006
  30. Environment News Service, "Kansas Governor Rejects Two Coal-Fired Power Plants," March 21, 2008
  31. Lawrence Journal-World, "Sebelius calls on feds to step up development of wind energy," June 2, 2008
  32. USA Today, "Kan. governor vetoes concealed weapons bill," April 16, 2004
  33. Daily Kos, "KS Gov Sebelius (D) Vetoes Conceal Carry," March 22, 2006
  34. Lawrence Journal-World, "Sebelius signs machine gun bill," April 22, 2008
  35. Boston Globe, "Kansans vote to ban same-sex marriage," April 6, 2005
  36. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Budget and Performance," accessed January 31, 2014
  37. OpenSecrets, "Kathleen Sebelius, 2011," accessed June 11, 2013
Political offices
Preceded by
Mike Leavitt
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Succeeded by
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Preceded by
Bill Graves
Governor of Kansas
Succeeded by
Mark Parkinson
Preceded by
Ronald Todd
Kansas Insurance Commissioner
Succeeded by
Sandy Praeger