WASHINGTON -- Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned on Thursday, said Sunday that staying in the job following the flawed rollout of the Obamacare website last fall "wasn't an option."
Speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press," Sebelius said she decided in January to remain in the top post through the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period, which ended March 31.
“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,” Sebelius said. “That didn’t seem to be even a topic to even consider since there was still one more chapter in the Affordable Care Act to roll out … So staying on made good sense to me.”
The breakdown of the ACA's website -- the chief means by which many individuals could buy health insurance under the new law -- will mar Sebelius' legacy, and she has endured months of criticism and calls for her resignation from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Sebelius acknowledged that the launch of the website was "terribly flawed and terribly difficult," but she said "the good news" was that the website was fixed in just eight weeks. More than 7.5 million people have purchased health insurance through the ACA since the law went into effect in October.
"The end of open enrollment was a logical time to leave,” Sebelius told NBC's Andrea Mitchell. "The president and I began to talk [about my departure] around the first of the year, and I went back to him in early March and said, I’m really optimistic we’re going to meet the targets ... 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."
Sebelius said that staying on through 2017, the end of Obama's second term, "really wasn’t a commitment I was willing to make, and he knew that." She said she intended to "leave with enough time that Obama would get a strong, competent leader."
The president on Thursday nominated Sylvia Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius.