HHS’s Sebelius thanks Blumenthal, 6 other senators

Washington — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thanked Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal  and six other Senate Democrats for pressing the White House to hire an experienced CEO to take over operations of the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

Sebelius Tuesday announced the hire of Kurt DelBene, a retired Microsoft executive.

“Kurt, who most recently served as president of the Microsoft Office Division, will lead our charge with HealthCare.gov and the Health Insurance Marketplace starting this Wednesday,” Sebelius said. “Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development.”

Last month, Blumenthal and six other Democratic senators, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Kaine of Virginia, sent President Obama a letter saying, “[A]s supporters of the Affordable Care Act, we have been deeply disappointed and frustrated with the many problems surrounding the law’s rollout, including the initial failure of the healthcare.gov website.”

The Democratic senators — all up for re-election this year except Blumenthal and Kaine — suggested the permanent hire of a CEO to replace Jeffrey Zients, who was tapped by  Obama in October to manage an emergency repair of HealthCare.gov. But Zients is leaving that job to head the National Economic Council.

“A project of this size and scope demands the sustained leadership and day-to-day management of a chief executive officer –- someone whose sole responsibility would be an unrelenting focus on Healthcare.gov and who has experience overseeing large and complex consumer-facing technology projects,” Blumenthal and the other senators wrote. “The position should report directly to you and should be empowered with the authority to ensure that healthcare.gov is fixed quickly, completely, and permanently.”

Sebelius said the creation of the role DelBene will fill “reflects ideas we received from key stakeholders, including Senators (Jeanne) Shaheen, Kaine, Blumenthal, (Mark) Warner, (Mark) Udall, (Chris) Coons, Landrieu and others.” Shaheen is from New Hampshire, while Warner is also from Virginia, Udall represents Colorado, and Coons represents Delaware.

 

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