Zients, along with longtime wingman Andy Slavitt, who is now senior advisor to the White House Covid Response Team, led and oversaw the 2013 efforts to repair the catastrophically broken HealthCare.gov. After a very shaky start, registrations exceeded expectations in the first year.
“Jeff has the ability to both analyze what to do and make sure all the pieces come together,” said former health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was in office when HealthCare.gov crashed and when it rose again.
“After doing the analysis to see where all the malfunctions were, he put the table, schedule and driveline together, got the right people in the right places, and got the job done,” she added. “And Andy Slavitt was the coordinator of that effort – the way to get up in the morning and think about and coordinate all of the pieces of the puzzle.”
Vaccine planning efforts are still in the early stages, and an HHS spokesman said the department has not yet decided how ambitious it will be.
However, it will be based on the government’s existing VaccineFinder.org website, rather than being built from scratch – a move that aims to make the process more efficient and avoid some of the pitfalls and complexities that introduced HealthCare.gov to fail.
The VaccineFinder website was originally created during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak from a partnership between the CDC and Boston Children’s Hospital. The Biden government used it for other purposes earlier this year to allow people to enter their zip codes and find nearby pharmacies and other Covid vaccination sites near them. The site can also direct users to the right place to schedule an appointment when that external resource is available.
While federal officials initially anticipated that the tool could only be used in a few states in the first few weeks, pharmacies have sent far more data on vaccine stocks than expected to the health department in recent weeks, allowing the site to expand more quickly.
HHS will continue to collect such data and post it on the website. It also weighs how and whether to collect similar information from other locations such as mass vaccination centers and individual health care providers.
“We have to make it easier for every American to get vaccinated,” Zients said at a briefing in the White House on Friday.
“Too often it is too difficult, too time-consuming and too frustrating to determine where vaccines are available and where to make an appointment,” added Zients, a chief executive who has held multiple positions in the Obama administration.
Every national website has to group slots between providers and flag Patients making multiple appointments in different locations and making sure everyone has a chance where they’re booked, said Bob Kocher, a health IT professional who served as health and economic advisor to President Barack Obama now one is a partner at Venrock.
And although the recordings are free for people, insurers and health insurers will be billed, which means that the registration sites will have to collect this information as well.
A state expert who refused to be cited by name without knowing more about the specific White House plans expects a “no wrong door” portal – a website that anyone can go to and then smoothly redirect to the right local filing tool.