Kevin Counihan

Director and CEO, HealthCare.gov

by / March 24, 2015
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Americas Health Insurance Plan

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Kevin Counihan ran one of the most successful state health insurance exchanges during the first year of Obamacare. As a reward, he was tapped by the Obama administration for one of the toughest jobs in government: keeping the federal HealthCare.gov online marketplace running while millions of Americans sign up for year two of coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Until last August, Counihan was CEO of Access Health CT, the Connecticut HIX that signed up more than 250,000 residents for health coverage in year one and ranked among the nation’s smoothest Obamacare rollouts. The site was praised for its no-frills approach. Functions like payment processing, site development and call center operations were outsourced, while an experienced state team focused on the fundamentals. And on opening day, while other health exchange sites staggered under the load, Access Health CT worked as advertised.

The site’s performance was so good that at least one state — Maryland — switched its HIX to Connecticut’s technology platform.

Now Counihan is the first CEO of the federal exchange, a position many called for after the disastrous rollout of the national marketplace. An all-hands-on-deck tech intervention in late 2013 stabilized HealthCare.gov, and 5.4 million Americans ultimately signed up for health insurance via the site.

HealthCare.gov isn’t out of the woods yet — observers warned late last year that back-end repairs were still under way on the site — but Counihan appears to be on a roll. In October, the Obama administration unveiled a revamped version of the exchange. And while not perfect, the signup period was much better this time around.

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Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.