Although Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said President Barack Obama was unaware of the problems with Healthcare.gov, she visited the White House 18 times before the problematic launch of the federal healthcare exchange.
From Oct. 27, 2012, to Oct. 6, 2013, Sebelius met or attended calls and events with the president at least 18 times, according to documents obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request.
She had multiple meetings with one of Obama’s closest advisors, Pete Rouse, and calls and meetings with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.
In the months leading up to the rollout, Sebelius was often at the White House. Problems with the Obamacare website were clear on Oct. 1, 2013. Both Sibelius and Obama have said he was unaware of the issues.
“On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great,” Obama said during a Nov. 14 press conference.
HHS told The Hill in a statement that Sebelius is often at the White House for a variety purposes.
“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,” the agency said.
The documents also show she met personally with influential journalists like Ezra Klein of the Washington post and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times leading up to the rollout.
“As has been widely reported, in the months leading up to open enrollment, Secretary Sebelius met with a broad range of individuals and stakeholders to help get the word out about enrollment, and to spotlight our education and outreach efforts,” said HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters.