(Bloomberg) — Former Microsoft Corp. executive Kurt DelBene was named to replace Jeffrey Zients as the manager of the U.S. health insurance enrollment system, as Zients prepares to take over as White House chief economic adviser.
DelBene, most recently the president of the Microsoft division responsible for its Office software, will take over Wednesday as head of the effort to improve the federal health exchange.
Zients has been credited for leading a six-week repair job that succeeded at salvaging the bug-ridden, error-prone system, including the healthcare.gov website, and making it functional for most of the millions of Americans trying to sign up for insurance.
DelBene “has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development,” U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said as she announced the move in blog post. “He will be a tremendous asset in our work.”
DelBene, 53, spent 21 years at Microsoft. He is married to U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, a Democrat from Washington state, who also is a former Microsoft executive. He announced his retirement from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft in July after a companywide reorganization that merged the Office business with the search engine and gave oversight of that unit to a different executive.
About 137,000 people have used the federal system to select health plans under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Almost four times as many people signed up in November, when the website was under repair, as in October, when most users were hit with bugs and errors that prevented enrollment.
About 365,000 people have signed up for private health plans under the law so far, including 227,000 in 14 states that are running their own enrollment systems led by California.
Seven Democratic senators led by Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire wrote President Barack Obama on Nov. 26 and urged him to appoint a permanent chief executive for the federal system after Zients moves to the White House. Sebelius said DelBene’s appointment “reflects ideas from key stakeholders” including the senators. Zients is scheduled to take over in January as Obama’s director of the National Economic Council.
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