BREAKING: Connecticut Exchange head to become Healthcare.Gov CEO

Hat Tip To: 
Sarah Kliff

The news broke just a few hours ago that Kevin Counihan, the head of AccessHealthCT (Connecticut's extremely successful ACA exchange, which works so well that they were able to actually sell the software platform to Maryland to replace MD's original broken system) is leaving the CT exchange for an unspecified position at the HHS Dept:

Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan, who spearheaded Connecticut's largely successful first round of Obamacare enrollment through the state's public insurance exchange, is departing, a source close to the matter confirmed.

Access Health has scheduled a noon press conference Tuesday to make the announcement. No replacement will be named today, according to the source, who said Counihan is leaving to take a federal position within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Well, Sarah Kliff over at has now broken the news about just what that new HHS position actually is...and it's very good news indeed:

Breaking: White House announces Kevin Counihan will be new CEO. Currently runs the Connecticut exchange.

— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) August 26, 2014

To get an idea of why a "CEO" position is needed for the federal exchange, read this story from American Healthline a month or so ago (I get quoted several times in the middle of the article):

Last month, the Center of American Progress -- a left-leaning public policy and advocacy group that has been a vocal supporter of ACA outreach and enrollment efforts -- issued a report titled "A New Management Structure for a New Phase of the Affordable Care Act." In it, CAP called for the creation of a new ACA implementation oversight and management position at HHS. Or, as some observers said, CAP was suggesting creating an "exchange CEO."

Under CAP's proposal, the individual who fills the CEO-like role would report directly to the President and HHS secretary. S/he would possess private-sector experience, a strong background in health care issues and serve for the remainder of the Obama administration. This top-level official would assume oversight control over the state and federal exchanges, which CAP said should be run as e-commerce websites, and s/he would work closely with insurers and oversee market regulations.

This is a very smart move IMHO.

UPDATE: More from CNBC's Dan Mangan on the CEO appointment, particularly this quote from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell:

"When I arrived at the Department, I committed to retain, develop andrecruit the best talent available, and that's what we are doing," Health and Human Secretary Sylvia 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."