August 6, 2012

Counihan sees key role for brokers

The devil is always in the detail and there is a lot of detail work ahead for Kevin Counihan. Here's what else the new CEO of Connecticut's health insurance exchange has to say about what lies ahead:

Q: So, what is the ultimate goal of the exchange?

A: At the end of the day, this is all about getting people insurance coverage and peace of mind. We are going to measure our success by how many people have insurance coverage. There is currently 10 percent of the Connecticut population that is uninsured. We are here to even the playing field a little bit.

Q: The health insurance brokerage community is holding its collective breath and wondering what their future will be like in this brave new world of exchanges. What is your view on their role?

A: I think they will be a critical distribution channel for us. We are very pro-broker. They provide a critical trusted advisor role for small businesses and individuals. We want to use them to help sell the exchange. They understand the market in a way we are never going to understand it because we can't be as close to the purchasers of health insurance as they are. I think they are going to be integral to our success.

Q: What is the exchange's staffing level going to look like going forward?

A: I think we are about a third of where we need to be. By Labor Day, we expect to have our entire C- suite jobs filled, then the department heads will start filling in positions that they need. But we are going to be on a tight budget so we need to be as lean as possible. We are not going to ask the state for money.

Q: The state recently submitted its application for a Level 2 grant from the federal government asking for $108 million through 2014 to help the state get its exchange up and running. What is the status of the grant and what will the money be used for?

A: The grant was submitted on June 27 and we are waiting for CMS to come back to us with any questions they might have. The grant money will mostly be used for information technology upgrades, but also things like advertising and outreach, which will be crucial in getting people to understand the exchange so they actually use it.

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