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