A former Microsoft executive has been tasked with overseeing HealthCare.gov, announced Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on Dec. 17.
Kurt DelBene, former president of Microsoft's Office division, will take over for Jeff Zients on Dec. 18. In a statement, Sebelius described DelBene's duties as senior adviser, which include providing "management expertise, operations oversight, and critical advice on additional enrollment channels, field operations, marketing and communications."
HealthCare.gov immediately crumbled under intense demand after its launch on Oct. 1, frustrating visitors seeking information on their health insurance options and severely crimping enrollment in the weeks leading up to a Dec. 23 deadline for coverage on New Year's Day. The online health insurance exchange was established as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was passed in 2010 and is often referred to as Obamacare.
HealthCare.gov's failed rollout turned into a high-profile government debacle, quickly dominating headlines in both the mainstream and technology press. The complex Website, which links various state health insurance exchanges, became a political lightning rod. Even Salesforce.com's outspoken CEO Marc Benioff chimed in, claiming that he offered to fix and operate HealthCare.gov for free.
Praising an "outstanding job" by Zients, Sebelius said, "Today, the site is night and day from what it was when it launched on October 1." Now, DelBene is charged with keeping that momentum going.
"Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development," said Sebelius, alluding to DelBene's experience at Microsoft. As president of the software giant's Office division, DelBene was involved in the management of a sprawling product and technology platform portfolio.
According to DelBene's bio at Microsoft, he oversaw "the engineering and marketing functions for a wide range of productivity products and services, including Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio." Prior to that, in his role of senior vice president within the same division, he was "responsible for the development of client and server software that collectively delivers to organizations and individuals a holistic productivity experience, including authoring, collaboration, communications, information sharing, and project management."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be counting on those skills. "He will be a tremendous asset in our work," said Sebelius.
She continued, "The President and I believe strongly in having one person, with strong experience and expertise in management and execution, who is thinking 24/7 about HealthCare.gov." DelBene will work in consultation with Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and QSSI, the project's general contractor.
In addition, DelBene will move forward with the current plan to overhaul HealthCare.gov "so that we can ensure the site's performance is strong through the close of open enrollment on March 31, 2014." Reading like a checklist for a customer-facing corporate Website, Sebelius said the plan includes "increasing system stability, redundancy and capacity, and building on improvements to the user interface, while continuing to prioritize security and privacy issues in line with industry best practices."