Washington State Exchange Seeks New CIO: An Interview with Richard Onizuka CEO

Richard Onizuka, CEO with DJ Wilson at the State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

Richard Onizuka, CEO with DJ Wilson at the State of Reform Health Policy Conference.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is seeking a new Chief Information Officer (CIO).

We conducted an interview with Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange on what they look for in candidates, challenges ahead, and how health insurance carriers and brokers can shape the site’s development. Qualified candidates can apply or view requirements on the State of Reform Job Board.

State of Reform: What prompted a search for the Exchange’s next Chief Information Officer?

Curt Kwak, our current CIO, decided to resign for personal reasons. We wish him the best and are now focused on filling his position in the coming weeks.

StoR: Outgoing CIO, Curt Kwak, set the bar in getting the exchange where it is today. How will the next CIO differentiate themselves? What qualities would they share with Kwak?

Curt has made a valuable contribution to the success of Washington Healthplanfinder. Given that the Exchange is a startup, he was tasked with building his team from the ground up and attracting talented individuals who were willing to take on a project of this magnitude. He also partnered closely with the CIOs of our respective state agency partners, which was critical to the success of building a new marketplace that would integrate with our state data systems and meet the needs of Medicaid expansion. I thank Curt for his role in our early success. It is our hope that his replacement will be able to continue this collaboration with our stakeholders and hit the ground running as we employ additional data fixes and system enhancements in advance of the next open enrollment period.

StoR: Given the recent challenges with invoicing data issues, how can the next CIO increase collaboration between the Exchange and Deloitte?

Our working relationship with Deloitte, our IT integrator, has been a positive one. We are in communication on a daily basis regarding system enhancements and performance issues, and have already implemented numerous fixes related to payment and invoicing. We knew there would be challenges in year one given the complexity of the project and the tight timeline for development and testing, but we all agreed this was important for the residents of Washington and we continue to get better each and every day.

StoR: How does the Exchange plan to improve and update the front- and back-end experience during its summer and fall releases?

That’s a great question. We have several releases scheduled for this summer and fall that will improve the customer experience. Many of these will be made on the back-end to resolve outstanding data issues or error codes, while others will include user-interface updates to make the shopping experience an easier process. There were will be a heavier focus on renewals next year for our existing customer base, so you may see updates on the homepage that will reflect that new process.

StoR: Lastly, how can insurance carriers and brokers best shape contribute to the Exchange’s overall development?

Gathering feedback from our partners is of the utmost importance. We have a robust Board meeting and committee structure where representatives from the carrier and broker community participate, but we also encourage others who are not committee members to listen in on these calls and provide comment during the public comment portion at the end of the meeting. Brokers can also contact us with their feedback via producer@wahbexchange.org. We realize much of our success moving forward will hinge on the participation of our registered insurance brokers. They are the only individuals who are licensed to recommend specific health plans to consumers and are a trusted source of information in their local community. We look forward to continuing to work with them to gather feedback about our system and find additional opportunities to partner together on outreach and enrollment in year two.