June 22, 2014 in Nation/World

Health care chief to hire new site leaders

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON — Moving to prevent more insurance chaos this fall, the nation’s new health care chief on Friday revamped the management of HealthCare.gov.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell appointed a new high-level operations manager to closely supervise the online portal for coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

She also announced that she’s hiring a CEO and a technology leader to specifically handle all aspects of the health law’s coverage expansion. The CEO would be able to take concerns directly to Burwell.

“This is a good move that should have occurred two years ago,” said Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant often critical of Obama’s overhaul.

Hiring a CEO for HealthCare.gov had been strongly urged by the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the White House.

Eight million people have signed up for coverage through new markets offering subsidized private insurance. But last fall’s open enrollment launch was paralyzed by technology problems, creating a major political embarrassment for the White House.

A rescue effort led by management consultant Jeff Zients got HealthCare.gov working reasonably well by the end of November. But Zients reported that his team found hundreds of software bugs and insufficient computing equipment.

The new operations manager Burwell appointed on Friday is a contractor who worked closely with Zients to turn the website around. Andy Slavitt is a vice president of Optum, a technology company whose subsidiary built the one part of HealthCare.gov said to have worked well. Optum is owned by UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest insurer.

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