Who is Jeffrey Zients, and how is he qualified to fix HealthCare.gov?

October 24, 2013

The Obama administration has about five months to fix some serious bugs in the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange before it starts fining people who don’t have health coverage.

This situation will grow increasingly awkward for the White House if the site’s problems persist. After all, President Obama promised that the online exchange would help Americans comply with the individual insurance mandate and make shopping for coverage as simple as shopping for flights.

The site has instead crashed intermittently and prevented many qualified visitors from registering.

Jeffrey Zients. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite).
Jeffrey Zients. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP).

In hopes of quickly working out the kinks, the White House has enlisted the help of former budget official Jeffrey Zients, one of Obama’s go-to guys when he wants programs to run smoother.

Below is a bit of background information on the man The Post described as “President Obama’s weed-wacker”:

Zients spent much of his career as an entrepreneur, most notably leading Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and Revolution Health, as well as playing a key role in bringing baseball back to Washington.

2004 Post profile: Zients is at the top of his game

The president brought Zients into his administration as chief performance officer and deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. The key word from those titles is “performance.” This guy has spent some time sniffing out ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

A 2010 Fiscal Times article quoted Partnership for Public Service president Max Stier describing Zients as follows: “He’s both hard-charging but nice, and that’s an unusual combination anywhere.”

In 2011, Obama tapped Zients to head a government-reform initiative that started with changing how the government handles trade and export issues.

Roughly one year later, the president named Zients as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget after Jack Lew — now Treasury secretary — moved from the head spot to serve as Obama’s chief of staff.

Zients is a Washington native who attended St. Albans prep school. He graduated from Duke University and worked briefly as a consultant for the Bain & Company management consulting firm, where former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney started his career, before moving back to the nation’s capital.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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