Challenges Lie Ahead for New Director of Massachusetts Health Connector

Among the director's goals is improving the relationship between the connector and MassHealth — one of the key downfalls cited for the botched launch of the Obamacare site last year.

by Chris Cassidy, Boston Herald / February 12, 2015
Massachusetts Gov. Baker (pictured) is also shaking up the connector board, soon filing a bill that will make the HHS secretary the connector board chairman. Flickr/WBUR

(TNS) -- Leadership changes, a board shakeup, improved communication and a better Obamacare website are all top priorities as the new executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, Louis Gutierrez,  tries to reform the troubled agency.

“If this were climbing Mount Everest, this would be base camp,” Gu­tierrez told the Herald yesterday. “There are still several major milestones to go.”

Among them:

• Improve the “crucial” relationship between the connector and MassHealth — one of the key downfalls cited for the botched launch of the Obamacare site last year.

• Replace top brass, including completing the search to fill the job of Chief Operating Officer Roni Mansur, who left Jan. 31, and the position of chief financial officer, which has been vacant for several months. Although he praised the “very committed team,” Gutierrez vowed: “There will be changes within the organization.”

• Upgrade the website to handle complicated transactions and require fewer calls to customer support centers.

• Gutierrez said it was too early to say whether the state might try to opt out of part of Obamacare, but noted: “The federal government is allowing some leeway in terms of how states implement their programs in the next couple years, so we want to examine our options.”

Gov. Charlie Baker is also shaking up the connector board, installing Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders as chairman and shifting Administration & Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore into a seat on the board reserved for the head of MassHealth or his designee. Baker will file a bill soon that will make the HHS secretary the connector board chairman.

Gutierrez left a private-sector job as the principal of the IT consulting firm Exeter Group to head the connector. He has also worked in technology roles both at the state and Harvard Pilgrim Health Plan.

“Throughout, there’s this thread of wanting to apply the best there is in current technology to public purposes,” said Gutierrez of his prior work. “This really is a dream role for doing that.”

©2015 the Boston Herald

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