New Head of Healthcare.gov
Kevin Counihan, the head of Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace, will be the new CEO of healthcare.gov, the website that 36 states use to sell insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell tapped Counihan to lead the site as part of a revamped management structure that aims to have the second year of Obamacare run more smoothly than the first.
Access Health CT, under Counihan’s leadership, is one of the more successful state-run exchanges. About 79,000 people signed up for coverage through Connecticut’s exchange, and another 120,000 gained Medicaid coverage. Surveys show that about half the people who gained coverage in the state were previously uninsured.
“One of the most important things we did is we showed that government can work,” Counihan said at a press conference in Hartford Tuesday. “It can take on a highly complex social program and succeed.”
Obamacare Year 2 starts with enrollment opening on Nov. 15, and the challenges are many. In addition to making sure the technical glitches stay in the rearview mirror, Counihan will be responsible for keeping people who are already signed up satisfied, as well as reaching out to the millions of Americans who are eligible for coverage but not yet insured.
Counihan said he’s optimistic that it can be done. “People understand intuitively that having people uninsured is not right for them or right for the country,” he said. “Now, how we go about doing it — people can debate and there can be solid policy differences. But I’m fundamentally very optimistic that, even though there are some big ideological schisms, that those can be bridged.”
Counihan has several decades of experience in healthcare, including launching complex new coverage programs. After a career in the private insurance industry, he helped launch Massachusetts’ successful health exchange starting in 2006. He also helped launch a private insurance exchange in California.