August 15, 2014

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HHS Senior Leadership Keeps Growing

Earlier this week, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that the department had hired a new senior counselor, Kevin Thurm, a Citigroup executive and deputy HHS secretary in the Clinton administration. When Thurm assumes his role in September, he will be wearing a variety of different hats in the department, working on high-level issues such as the implementation of PPACA, the arrival of unaccompanied minors at the Southwest border and the nation’s response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

Thurm will certainly be busy when he joins HHS in the fall. His appointment is the latest in Burwell’s attempt to streamline the department’s management structure. Since coming on as secretary of HHS, Burwell has brought on three well-seasoned corporate advisors in an attempt to improve the leadership and overall performance of the department. Just last month, Burwell brought on former Wal-Mart executive Leslie Dach as senior counselor. In June, she hired Optum’s Andy Slavitt to be principal deputy administrator at CMS. This series of hirings came as a direct response to the poor rollout of the health insurance exchanges last fall. Burwell hopes that by hiring people with both administration and corporate experience, the second open-enrollment season will be much better than the first.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with the rollout of the exchanges last fall was the failed healthcare.gov website. Healthcare.gov has seen a series of contractors and chief technology officers, and it just got a new one. Back in the December, the federal government temporarily tapped Kurt DelBene, a Microsoft executive, to oversee the website. Now, as DelBene makes his planned exit, the federal government has launched the U.S. Digital Service, a team of experts whose focus is to fix problems with government websites like healthcare.gov and help upgrade federal technology infrastructure. Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer who helped resurrect HealthCare.gov after its high-profile meltdown, will be leading the Digital Service Team.

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