December 3, 2021


Sebelius also stated that she had called three companies regulated by her department—Johnson & Johnson (a drug manufacturer), Ascension Health (a large Roman Catholic healthcare system), and Kaiser Permanente (a health insurer)—to generally solicit their support for Obamacare but not to explicitly ask for money.

  • U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Charged with implementing the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act in 2010
  • Has expressed her support for a “single payer” healthcare system

Kathleen Sebelius was born on May 15, 1948, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the daughter of John Joyce Gilligan, a Democrat who served as a U.S. congressman from 1965-67 and as governor of Ohio from 1971-75.

Holding a bachelor’s degree in political science from Trinity College and an MPA from the University of Kansas, Sebelius was the executive director (and leading lobbyist) of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association from 1977–86; a member of the Kansas House of Representatives from 1987-94; Kansas insurance commissioner from 1995-2003; and Kansas governor from 2003-09.

During her tenure as governor, Sebelius spent years fighting against transparency motions related to Republican state attorney general Phillip Kline’s effort to determine whether the Planned Parenthood Federation of America had committed felonies by: (a) falsifying the records of patients who underwent illegal late-term abortions in Kansas, and (b) failing to report many cases of child rape. Though two Kansas district judges found probable cause of criminality in Planned Parenthood’s records, Sebelius, a committed opponent of any legislative “restrictions” on women’s abortion rights, launched an aggressive campaign designed to suppress that evidence and smear the attorney general.[1]

Sebelius held her post as Kansas governor until President Barack Obama appointed her as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in March 2009. That same month, it was learned that Sebelius owed more than $7,800 in back taxes; that she was unable to provide receipts for some charitable donations and business expenses she had claimed; and that she had mistakenly taken a mortgage interest deduction on a home that she had already sold. Notwithstanding these revelations, the Senate confirmed Sebelius as HHS secretary on April 28, 2009.

Having previously declared hersef to be “all for a single-payer [healthcare] system eventually,” Sebelius soon became a leading defender of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as “Obamacare,” which was passed in March 2010. Much of the implementation of that law was delegated to Sebelius’s office.

In April 2012, Sebelius told members of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network that she was “delighted to be your partner” in the effort to promote Obamacare.

In June 2013, Sebelius was called before the House Education and Workplace Committee to answer questions about whether she had solicited funds from private organizations to help implement Obamacare. She admitted to having contacted the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (which is devoted exclusively to public health) and H&R Block (which expected to play a large role in helping people apply for tax credits that could be used to buy health insurance under Obamacare). Her reason for calling these organizations was to solicit money for Enroll America—an Obama-allied program tasked with enrolling low-income Americans in Obamacare’s new health-insurance exchanges.

Sebelius also stated that she had called three companies regulated by her department—Johnson & Johnson (a drug manufacturer), Ascension Health (a large Roman Catholic healthcare system), and Kaiser Permanente (a health insurer)—to generally solicit their support for Obamacare but not to explicitly ask for money.

Justifying her actions, Sebelius said: “It was always recognized from the day the president signed the [Obamacare] bill that there would never be enough government funding and that there would not be enough opportunity if this is only a government-run program.” But Republican Senator Lamar Alexander asserted: “If [Sebelius] is raising money from private entities and coordinating with those entities to do something that Congress has refused to do, the Constitution doesn’t allow that and federal law makes it a criminal violation.”

Also in June 2013, the Associated Press reported that Sebelius and other HHS officials were using secret email accounts to communicate with one another about government business. This was a violation of U.S. law, which requires federal agencies to retain all of their emails in the event that they are someday needed for lawsuits or congressional investigations. The Obama administration claimed that Sebelius and her colleagues had used the secret accounts merely to avoid being swamped with unwanted emails.

In a July 2013 speech to the annual conference of the NAACP, Sebelius touted Obamacare as a “powerful” vehicle for “reducing health disparities” among Americans, and compared opponents of the Act to southern segregationists who had opposed civil rights in the 1950s and ’60s:

“The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. ‘This won’t work,’ ‘slow down,’ ‘let’s wait,’ they say. But history shows that upholding our founding principles demands continuous work … You showed it in the fight against lynching and the fight for desegregation. You showed it by ensuring inalienable rights are secured in the courtroom and at the ballot box….”

In August 2013, Sebelius told a gathering of Latinos in Philadelphia that because the Obamacare bill “is crafted in such a way that those who are undocumented will not have access to the tax credits or shopping in the [health insurance] marketplace,” Congress should give high priority to passing “comprehensive immigration reform.”

When Sebelius was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on October 7, 2013, Stewart suggested that a market-based healthcare system is a flawed concept, and that a government-run, single-payer system might have been preferable. Sebelius replied, “If we could have perhaps figured out a pathway, that may have been a reasonable solution.”

For additional information on Kathleen Sebelius, click here.


[1] Elements of the smear campaign included the following:

  • The state ethics board, two of whose members were Sebelius appointees, accused Kline of lying.
  • The left-wing state Supreme Court (appointed by Sebelius) repeatedly hindered Kline’s subpoenas and appeals.
  • For 20 months, the state’s disciplinary board for lawyers suppressed an internal investigative report indicating that there was absolutely no probable cause to justify any ethics complaints against Kline.
  • A subsequent Kansas attorney general (appointed by Sebelius) destroyed a large number of key documents that possibly could have proven the felony charges against Planned Parenthood, and thus the case had to be dropped.