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Is new leadership the answer to reforming HealthCare.gov?

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Former Department of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius presumably took the fall for the failed launching of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, and her successor is currently rolling out a plan to avoid similar troubles with the 2015 open enrollment period.

Secretary Sylvia Burwell has her designs on key management changes to strengthen the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a major component of which is the creation of a Principal Deputy Administrator within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) who will focus on operational and policy associated with the program.

Filling that role will be Andy Slavitt, who most recently served as the Group Executive Vice President of Optum and brings with his 20 years of experience in the private sector dealing with clinical, technology, and operational solutions for the healthcare industry. Slavitt play an important role in the repair efforts following the launch of HealthCare.gov.

“Andy’s breadth of experience throughout the healthcare sector makes him the right person for this role, and I am excited for our partnership across all of the CMS programs,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a public statement. “He will focus on managing day-to-day operational issues across all of our programs and be a key part of our leadership team.”

Slavitt will be joined by two new members of the executive team responsible for overseeing the HealthCare.gov specifically:

CMS is also recruiting two leaders to fill key roles:

1. A new, permanent Marketplace CEO, who will be the Chief Executive with responsibility and accountability for leading the federal marketplace, managing relationships with state marketplaces, and running the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which regulates health insurance at the federal level. The Marketplace CEO will report to the CMS Administrator with a dotted line to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

2. A new, permanent Marketplace CTO who will report to the new Marketplace CEO and work closely with the Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Office of Information Services within CMS in order to ensure proper alignment of project milestones and deliverables.

The two roles are part of Burwell’s aim at ensuring accountability, a lesson learned from last year’s debacle.

“These actions will bolster our team and further instill ongoing accountability for reaching milestones, measuring results and delivering results for the American people,” she explained. “Under this new structure, we bring additional operational and technological fire power and have a clear single point of contact in the Marketplace CEO to streamline decision-making.”

As the statement from HHS notes, Burwell’s strategy brings an end to the tenure of Kurt DelBene as the Secretary’s Senior Advisor on HealthCare.gov and day-to-day manager of the technical components underpinning the federal website.

Read the full HHS statement here.

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