White House Taps Former Microsoft Office Head To Lead Healthcare.gov


Longtime Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene is taking over the troubled Healthcare.gov website.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that DelBene, the former head of Microsoft's Office Division, was named senior adviser to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. In that role, he will manage Healthcare.gov and lead the effort to fix the problems with the website.

"Kurt has proven expertise in heading large, complex technology teams and in product development. He will be a tremendous asset in our work," Sebilius said in a statement.

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DelBene retired from Microsoft this summer after the software giant's major corporate reorganization. A 21-year veteran of Microsoft, he most recently served as president of the Microsoft Office Division, where he oversaw all Microsoft Office products as well as Office 365, Exchange and other applications. Before being promoted to that role in 2010, DelBene served as senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division.

DelBene also has political ties; his wife is Washington Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene.

Sebilius said DelBene will serve as senior adviser for at least the first half of 2014. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, he will focus on "increasing system stability, redundancy and capacity, and building on improvements to the user interface" ahead of the close of open enrollment on March 31.

DelBene replaces Jeff Zients, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget who was tapped to repair Healthcare.gov's issues in October following the troubled rollout of Obamacare's health exchange. Zients is moving on to become the director of the National Economic Council starting in January.

Unlike Zients, DelBene will bring first-hand IT experience to the table as manager of Healthcare.gov. Steven Reese, chief technology officer at Microsoft Gold Partner Sigmanet in Ontario, Calif., said he is optimistic about DelBene's appointment.

"This is someone who should understand technology and the user experience and how user interfaces work," Reese said. "I think the biggest issue with Healthcare.gov is the user experience, so I think this is good news."

PUBLISHED DEC. 17, 2013