Obamacare board chair has doubts about exchange viability

By Kelly Maher

Connect for Health Colorado’s (the Obamacare exchange) board chairwoman expressed doubts about the long-term financial viability of her organization. In a meeting with the legislative implementation subcommittee, the chairwoman, Sharon O’Hara, revealed that a new CEO may be doomed for failure. The subcommittee hearing was posted as a meeting to discuss the search for a new CEO to fill the hole left by embattled exchange leader Patty Fontenau, and the discussion focused on one particular candidate for the job. During the time allotted for legislators to ask questions, Senator Beth Martinez Humenik (R-Thornton) pressed O’Hara on the financial viability of the exchange. In her attempt to praise the top exchange CEO candidate O’Hara said:

“If this is doable, he can make it happen.”


Senator Beth Martinez Huminek jumped on the odd word choice “if this is doable.”


“I have my doubts on good days. Today is not one of my good days.” O’Hara expounded.

If this is doable . . . meaning: it may not be doable. If O’Hara has doubts on her best days, what do the not good days (presumably today) look like in the bleak future of O’Hara’s crystal ball for the exchange? Is independent financial viability not doable? If not, those who rely on the exchange for health coverage and those who have funded large portions of the exchange (the taxpayers) should be informed of the impossibility of this task immediately.

The exchange is searching not only for a CEO, but is also searching for all C-suite positions – COO, CIO, CFO –  as they have hemorrhaged all their top-tier management. How will the exchange attract the best talent when the board chair doubts the exchange’s viability even on her best day?

Entering into the top spot in any failing organization to spark a turnaround is an uphill battle even for the most seasoned executives. The fact that the one person in the state in best position to know about the exchange’s viability – the chairwoman of their board – has doubts should concern all of us.