The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has hired a public exchange manager with many years of experience in the commercial health insurance industry to oversee the public exchange system.
Kevin Counihan, who has been the chief executive officer of Connecticut’s Access Health CT exchange since July 2012, is now the CEO of what HHS calls the “Marketplace” program, officials said today. Counihan will be in charge of the HHS-run Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges. He also will oversee the state-based exchanges and the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO). CCIIO is in charge of HHS commercial health insurance programs.
Counihan was a vice president at Cigna from 1990 to 1993. From 1993 to 2005, he was a senior vice president for sales, marketing and member services at Tufts Health Plan. He then spent five years as the chief marketing officer at a state-based exchange Massachusetts set up in 2006.
In March 2011, Counihan went to work for CHOICE Administrators — a Word & Brown unit that helped create the U.S. private exchange model. Word & Brown is a large California general agency. CHOICE runs CaliforniaChoice, a private exchange that gives small California employers the ability to offer workers a menu of health coverage options. When Counihan was there, the program was serving 10,000 employers with 150,000 plan enrollees.
Counihan helped Choice compete for PPACA exchange construction business.
Counihan went from Choice to Access Health CT, where he ran what was regarded as a smooth-running, successful state-based exchange. Some state-based exchanges with serious enrollment system problems have talked about shifting to the Access Health CT system.
Over the years, Counihan has spoken often at events organized by the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), NAHU state chapters, and other insurance groups.
Sylvia Burwell, the new HHS secretary, said in a statement that she hopes Counihan will be a “clear, single point of contact for streamlined decision-making.”
HHS also has named Lori Lodes to be communications director at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Lodes was senior vice president for campaigns and strategies at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Tim Hughey of Accenture will continue to provide exchange technology support for CMS during the next exchange open enrollment period, which is set to start Nov. 15, Burwell said.
The exchange program has been making major changes in the systems behind HealthCare.gov, the enrollment website for the HHS-run exchanges, and it has said nothing about progress on back-office systems that were supposed to be up and running months ago.