Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, today announced that he will be stepping down from his role after guiding the creation and implementation of the state’s health insurance marketplace, Washington Healthplanfinder. The move will be effective August 31.
“My goal from day one was to ensure that we establish a health insurance marketplace that best served the people of Washington. With the foundation now laid I feel it is the right time to step aside. It is a difficult decision, especially given my affinity for this work and the people associated with it.”
Onizuka took the lead at the Exchange in May 2012 and has been the organization’s only CEO. He previously oversaw state health care programs and initiatives related to Governor Gregoire’s five point plan to improve quality and cost efficiency in Washington’s health care system, including work on the Exchange’s establishing legislation.
“Richard has done a tremendous job building and operationalizing our state’s marketplace that has forever changed our health care landscape,” said Ron Sims, board chairman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. “Our national reputation as a leader is due in large part to Richard’s commitment and vision. I join our board members in thanking Richard for getting us where we are today.
Sims expects strong support from the Board for Pam MacEwan, current Chief of Staff, as interim Exchange CEO after Onizuka’s departure. MacEwan has been Onizuka’s deputy since August 2012, playing a key role in leadership of the Exchange and management of the organization.
“Pam is a known and valued leader, and would be the logical choice moving forward,” Sims added.
Gov. Jay Inslee also expressed his gratitude to Onizuka for his tenure as the first CEO of the state’s Exchange.
“Richard has helped lead health care reform in the state of Washington,” said Inslee. “Our exchange has been the conduit for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians to sign up for health care insurance, many for the first time in their lives. His career in public service is admirable. I appreciate all he has done to help Washingtonians and to make our state a national leader in health care reform. I also appreciate Pam MacEwan’s impressive work throughout her career and know she would serve as interim CEO with distinction.”
Since going live on Oct. 1, 2013, nearly 2 million people – one out of every four Washingtonians – have used Washington Healthplanfinder to secure health insurance coverage at low or no cost. This has resulted in a 40% drop in the state’s uninsured rate – the fourth highest such decline in the nation. Washington Healthplanfinder has also secured more than $400 million in federal subsidies to help consumers pay premiums and reduce costs of hospital and provider visits.
About Washington Healthplanfinder
Washington Healthplanfinder is a new online marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses in Washington to compare and enroll in health insurance coverage and gain access to tax credits, reduced cost sharing and public programs such as Medicaid. The next open enrollment period for Washington Healthplanfinder begins on Nov. 1, 2015 for health insurance coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2016. The open enrollment period will extend through Jan. 31, 2016.
About the Washington Health Benefit Exchange
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is a public-private partnership established in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) to implement a new health insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses. The Exchange is separate from the state and governed by an independent 11-member board. For more information, visit www.wahbexchange.org.
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