Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, has come up with a health policy parlor game: Create a to-do list for Kevin Counihan.
Counihan is the new chief executive officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program, which HHS calls the “health insurance marketplace.”
Counihan most recently was head of the PPACA exchange in Connecticut, which shocked everyone by doing a pretty good job. Before that, he broke out of the Obama administration employment mold.
It seems that, in part because of personal preferences, in part because of how the economy works, and in part of the need to have employees who are purer than pure in terms of taxation and compensation of household help, most Obama administration employees have work histories that are low on private-sector contact.
Counihan himself has worked enough for companies like Cigna and a Word & Brown affiliate to have shown up in LifeHealthPro.com before PPACA was a gleam in Democrats’ eyes. It seems possible that he’s within one degree of LinkedIn separation from someone who reads LifeHealthPro.com and its e-mail newsletters.
So, here are two suggestions for his inbox.
1. Refer to the exchanges as “exchanges,” not marketplaces.
Maybe HHS has been trying to call those gorillas marketplaces because a focus group showed that consumers understood the word “marketplace” better than they understand the word “exchange.” Well, great, but policymakers sold the exchanges to the public and Congress as exchanges, not marketplaces.
Calling the exchanges “marketplaces,” rather than “exchanges,” makes the exchange managers sound like dorks who spend their time obsessing about focus group reports when they ought to be obsessing about whether the front-end website works, whether the back-end administrative systems exist, and whether the evil overlords on Mars who have cloned all of our HealthCare.gov records will help us get into our accounts when we forget our passwords and lock ourselves out.