Former Connecticut ACA Exchange Executive Takes Over Key Federal Role

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Aug. 26 — Kevin Counihan, who most recently served as the chief executive officer of the Connecticut health insurance exchange, was named as the “marketplace CEO” Aug. 26 by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

In his role as marketplace CEO, Counihan will be responsible and accountable for leading the federal marketplace (, managing relationships with state marketplaces and running the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which regulates health insurance at the federal level. He will report to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

According to the HHS announcement, Counihan is an experienced senior executive with more than three decades of success in business, marketing, operations, product development and strategic planning for health-care organizations. As head of Connecticut's exchange, he oversaw the successful implementation of the state's marketplace, where enrollment exceeded expectations.

Connecticut was the first state to surpass the goal for Affordable Care Act enrollees, and since 2012, the state's uninsured rate has been cut nearly in half—from 7.9 percent to 4.0 percent, the HHS said. Nine states have contacted Connecticut's exchange about implementing its technology.

The HHS also said that Tim Hughey of Accenture, the federal marketplace system developer and maintainer, will continue to provide technology support to the CMS throughout the next open enrollment. Hughey will focus on technology issues in the areas of systems architecture, tools, security and networks across all contractors involved in the federal marketplace, the HHS said.

“When I arrived at the Department, I committed to retain, develop and recruit the best talent available, and that's what we are doing,” Burwell said. “We are building strong teams with the focus and know-how necessary to advance our mission and deliver impact for the people we serve. We are committed to instilling ongoing accountability for reaching milestones, measuring results and ensuring a successful open enrollment period. I'm particularly pleased to welcome Kevin Counihan to the new Marketplace CEO role. He brings additional operational and technological expertise to the position and will be a clear, single point of contact for streamlined decision-making.”

CMS Communications

In another appointment, Lori Lodes was named the new director of communications for the CMS. Lodes will serve as senior adviser to the CMS administrator in all activities related to open enrollment, communications and external engagement, as well as providing counsel to senior HHS leadership. The CMS Office of Communications is the agency's focal point for communication and public engagement initiatives, providing leadership in the areas of customer service, website operations, traditional and new media, call center operations, consumer materials and public information campaigns.

Lodes most recently served as senior vice president for campaigns and strategies for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and senior vice president at the Center for American Progress.

“Secretary Burwell and I are excited to welcome these new members to our team and work in partnership to improve access to health care and improve the quality of care for so many Americans,” Tavenner said. “These strong leaders bring a wealth of experience to bolster our team and will help build on the Affordable Care Act implementation progress to date.”

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