Conn. ex­change chief named CEO of Health­Care.gov

Modern Healthcare - - REFORM UPDATE - —Dar­ius Tahir

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.

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