Obama Says Farewell to Sebelius: 'She Has Bumps, I Have Bumps'

'What Kathleen is going to go down in history for is serving as the secretary [when the U.S.] declared that quality, affordable health care isn't a privilege but a right'

"All right. Everybody have a seat. Have a seat. Good morning. In my sixth year in office, I am grateful to have so many aids aides and as advisors who have been there since the earliest dates. But it's still sometimes bittersweet when any of them leave for other endeavors, even if their successor is wonderful. In early March, Kathleen Sebelius, my secretary of Health and Human Services, told me she would be moving on once the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act came to an end. And after five years of great service to our country and 7.5 million who signed up for health coverage through the exchanges, she has earned that right.

"I will miss her advice, I will miss her friendship, I will miss her wit. But I am proud to nominate somebody to succeed her who holes these same attributes in abundance, Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

Now just a couple things about Kathleen. When I nominated Kathleen five years ago, I had gotten to know Kathleen when she was governor of Kansas and shown skills there and was a great advisor and supporter during my presidential campaign, and so I knew that she was up for a tough job. I mentioned her responsibility was to make sure we were prepared for a pandemic flu outbreak. I didn't know at the time that would literally be her first task but it was. It gives you a sense of the daily challenges that she has handled -- often without fanfare and unacknowledged, have been critical to the health and welfare of the American people. She has fought to improve children's health from birth to kindergarten, expanded maternal health care, reduced racial and ethic disparities, brought us closer to the first AIDS-free generation. She has been a tireless advocate for women's health. And what Kathleen is going to go down in history for is serving as the secretary of Health and Human Services when the United States of America declared that quality, affordable health care isn't a privilege but a right for everything single citizen of these United States of America.

"Kathleen has been here through the long fight to pass the Affordable Care Act. She helped guiding it's implementation even when it was rough. She has bumps, I have bumps, bruises. But we did it because we knew of all of the people we met all across the country who lost a home, had put off care, had decided to stay with a job instead of starting a business because they were not concern about their health care situation. We had met families who had seen their children suffer because of had the uncertainty of health care. And we were committed to get this done. And that is what we have done. And that is what Kathleen has done. Yes, we lost the first quarter of open enrollment period with the problems with healthcare.gov -- and they were problems. But under the leadership of Kathleen's leadership, her team at HHS turned the corner, got it fixed, got the job done and the final score speaks for itself: There are 7.5 million people across the country that have the security of health insurance, most of them for very first time and that is because of the woman standing beside me. And we are proud of that. That is a historic achievement. That's right.

"And by the way, in the mean time, alongside 7.5 million people being enrolled, health care cost under Kathleen's leadership are growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. I keep reading about people saying, 'well, they're not doing anything about health care costs.' They're growing at the slowest rate in 50 years. What do you mean? That's in part because of Kathleen's extraordinary leadership. Health records are moving from dog eared paper to high tech systems. Kathleen partnered with the Department of Justice to aggressively pursue health care fraud and return billions, record sums, to the Medicare trust fund.

"So all told, Kathleen's work will benefit our families and this country for decades to come that she has done. So we want to thank Kathleen's husband, Gary, the first dude of Kansas. We've got two outstanding sons, Ned and Jon, who've been willing to share their mom with us these past five years."

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