Filed Under:Health Insurance, Individual Health

PPACA implementation chief to leave post

Gary Cohen (CMS photo)
Gary Cohen (CMS photo)

(Bloomberg) -- Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), plans to step down from the post at the end of the month.

CCIIO – a unit of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – has been in charge of most Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) implementation efforts for CMS’s parent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Republicans in Congress have accused Cohen of misleading them about how HealthCare.gov, the enrollment system for the PPACA public exchanges run by HHS, would perform.

Cohen will be leaving March 31. That’s supposed to be the end of the initial open enrollment period for the individual commercial health insurance policies, or “qualified health plans” (QHPs), sold by the public exchanges.

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, Cohen’s boss, announced his departure in an e-mail sent to agency employees.

Cohen’s departure is voluntary, Tavenner said.

In addition to overseeing the creation of the HHS-run and state-based exchanges, CCIIO has been implementing other PPACA health insurance programs, underwriting and administration rules, and benefits mandates, including the PPACA “risk corridors” risk-management program, which is supposed to protect QHP issuers against underwriting losses, and the PPACA commercial health insurance rate review program.

“Under his leadership, CCIIO established the rules which have made the promise of the Affordable Care Act a reality for millions of Americans who now can have the security of health coverage without regard to their previous health condition, and can know that their insurance will cover all the most common services they will need,” Tavenner said in the e-mail.

Cohen will be replaced on an interim basis by Mandy Cohen, a medical doctor who manages consumer assistance for the agency, Tavenner said. Cohen’s departure was reported earlier by Politico.

Contentious hearing

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, a medical doctor, told HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a hearing Oct. 30 that she should ask for Cohen’s resignation.

Cohen “misled” Congress in testimony before the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov by insisting that any problems would be minor and that the project was largely on schedule, Burgess said.

Cohen, an attorney, was an insurance executive and an insurance regulator in California before taking charge of CCIIO in August 2012. Tavenner’s e-mail was silent on Cohen’s future, saying only that he would “return home.” Cohen didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail asking about his plans.

--Editors: Andrew Pollack, James Callan.

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