Head of Con­necti­cut’s suc­cess­ful ex­change named Health­Care.gov CEO

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Dar­ius Tahir

The chief of Con­necti­cut’s suc­cess­ful state-based Oba­macare ex­change is head­ing to Wash­ing­ton to be­come CEO of Health­Care.gov.

Last week’s ap­point­ment of Kevin Couni­han to the CMS post is the first step in re­or­ga­niz­ing the agency’s lead­er­ship of the fed­eral ex­change, which the CMS pre­vi­ously said would also in­clude a new chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer. The CMS did not re­spond to a ques­tion on when that po­si­tion would be filled.

Un­der Couni­han’s lead­er­ship in Con­necti­cut, the state’s unin­sured rate dropped by nearly half this year. The state’s mar­ket­place was so suc­cess­ful that it launched ef­forts to sell its tech- nol­ogy and ex­per­tise to other states with state-run ex­changes. Mary­land is is plan­ning to im­ple­ment Con­necti­cut’s ex­change tech­nol­ogy.

“Pick­ing Kevin as the CEO of Health­Care.gov is a bril­liant move” by HHS Sec­re­tary Sylvia Mathews Bur­well, said Dan Schuyler, se­nior direc­tor for ex­change tech­nol­ogy for con­sult­ing firm Leav­itt Part­ners.

But the short time win­dow be­fore the next open en­roll­ment pe­riod be­gins Nov. 15 may make it dif­fi­cult for Couni­han to have a big im­pact, Schuyler said. “While Kevin is a great leader, there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Schuyler pre­dicted that the 2015 open en­roll­ment will have its share of bumps but that the long-term future of the fed­eral ex­change looks solid.

Couni­han’s suc­cess in Con­necti­cut was driven by more than tech­nol­ogy. Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy has pointed to the open­ing of pop-up in­sur­ance sales stores as a key step in en­rolling peo­ple. On the other hand, Mal­loy ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in the num­ber of small busi­nesses that signed up for the state’s Small Busi­ness Health Op­tions Pro­gram ex­change.

The ap­point­ment of Couni­han is part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to crit­i­cism that the lack of di­rect man­age­ment ac­count­abil­ity led to the trou­bled devel­op­ment and launch last fall of Health­Care.gov. The man­age­ment struc­ture was dif­fuse and work­ers of­ten re­ported to mul­ti­ple man­agers, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the lib­eral Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, which rec­om­mended that the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­stall a per­ma­nent CEO to over­see the ex­change pro­gram and in­sur­ance reg­u­la­tion.

In ad­di­tion, a Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice of­fi­cial told the House in July that the CMS needs to bet­ter man­age its ex­change con­trac­tors.

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