New CEO for Healthcare.gov

The New York Times and most other major news outlets are reporting on the big news of the day – that Healthcare.gov has its first CEO. Kevin J. Counihan, who helped launch the Connecticut exchange, one of the few successful exchanges set up by either the federal or state governments, will take the reins September 8th.

Counihan will report directly to CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and he has three big jobs to do this fall:

First, he will be charged with attracting more individual enrollees. 8 million people signed up for ACA-compliant plans through the marketplace last year, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million will be enrolled at the end of this year’s open enrollment period, even after accounting for those who drop coverage, though Counihan says it’s still too early to make that prediction.

Second, there are still some major technological problems with the federal site that need to be fixed, and Counihan will be the new scapegoat if they aren’t. While the enrollment piece of the site seems to be working well, it’s still having trouble paying insurance companies and changing consumer information.

Third, Counihan will serve as the administration’s liaison with the state-run marketplaces and with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

What does this mean to brokers?

When we see a big news story like this, we always try to answer the question “what does this mean to insurance agents?” After all, we’re the ones trying to advise clients and make sure they get the best coverage at the lowest price and with the least hassle possible. The good news here is that there may be less hassle this year, especially if Counihan can help fix some of the problems that plagued the Healthcare.gov site last fall. Even brokers who have their own private exchange site are dependent on the federal site working properly since the subsidies are run through it behind the scenes.

The other thing it means, though, is that now there’s someone with the official responsibility of increasing enrollment (it’s part of his job description), so the federal government will be heavily promoting the Healthcare.gov site. This does create awareness about the guaranteed issue plans and the financial assistance that may be available, which is a good thing, but it also creates competition since the government has a few more marketing dollars than most of us do. What that means to you is that you don’t have any time to waste. You need to make sure that you not only have an individual solution but that you start promoting it right away so you can enroll as many people as possible (before the government does).

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