Conn. exchange chief named CEO of HealthCare.gov
Kevin Counihan, who headed Connecticut’s successful statebased Obamacare exchange, has tough challenges ahead as the first CEO of HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance exchange that serves 36 states.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s August appointment of Counihan, 59, to the CMS post was a major step by the Obama administration to reorganize the agency’s leadership of the federal exchange.
Under Counihan’s leadership in Connecticut, that state’s uninsured rate dropped by nearly half this year. The state’s marketplace, Access Health CT, was so successful that it launched efforts to sell its technology and expertise to other states with state-run exchanges. Maryland is planning to implement Connecticut’s exchange technology.
Counihan previously worked in the health insurance industry and helped launch Massachusetts’ Health Connector exchange in 2006.
“Picking Kevin as the CEO of HealthCare.gov is a brilliant move,” said Dan Schuyler, senior director for exchange technology for consulting firm Leavitt Partners.
But the short time 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.
Earlier this month, the CMS started conducting testing with insurers but swore them to secrecy about the process. That lack of transparency drew criticism from some observers.
Counihan’s appointment was 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 diffused 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.