U.S. Health Insurance Regulator Gary Cohen has long wanted to return home to California, and the end of open enrollment seemed like the perfect time to make that move, he told the media Thursday, two days after announcing his resignation.
Cohen, who will resign at the end of this month, was previously chief counsel to the California Health Benefit Exchange Board before taking the role as the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight in Washington.
He said the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov had nothing to do with his decision to leave, and no one encouraged him to leave. It was “quite the opposite,” he said of his conversations with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials, including Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and Department of Health and Human Services officials. They were not surprised with Cohen’s decision, he said, as they “always knew I wanted to go home.”
Cohen has no job lined up in California. Instead, he intends to spend a few weeks with his family, he said. He added that looking for a job at this time could require him to recuse himself in certain instances in his current position, which he is not prepared to do.
Tavenner announced the resignation in a letter to CMS staff. “I am very grateful to Gary for his service, and knew that the time would come when he would return home,” she wrote. “He says that time is at the end of open enrollment.” Tavenner wrote that she appreciates Cohen’s leadership “during one of the most transformative times in the history of health care in our country. We will miss Gary, and wish him and his family well.”
Tavenner said that as CMS undertakes a nationwide search for a new director, she has asked Dr. Mandy Cohen to be acting director. Mandy Cohen, no relation to Gary Cohen, is currently acting director of the Consumer Support Group in CCIIO.
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