Top IT Chief at CMS to Jump Sinking Ship
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The Fiscal Times
November 6, 2013

The agency in charge of Obamacare’s hobbled website, Healthcare.gov,  just lost its top tech official.

Tony Trenkle, chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is leaving the agency on Nov. 15 for a job in the private sector, according to a staff email sent on Wednesday by CMS chief operating officer Michelle Snyder and obtained by The New York Times.

This is the agency’s first staff shakeup since the website’s troubled launch on Oct 1. Since then, Healthcare.gov has suffered from serious technical problems that have prevented Americans across the nation from enrolling in insurance exchanges through the new law.

Trenkle was responsible for overseeing CMS’s $2 billion tech budget, which includes the development of Healthcare.gov. He was also the direct supervisor of Henry Chao, CMS’s deputy CIO, who is in charge of the contractors hired to build and now fix the problem plagued website.

RELATED: TECH EXPERT: SCRAP THE OBAMACARE SITE AND START OVER

During a press call with reporters on Wednesday, CMS communications director Julie Bataille declined to say whether Trenkle was asked to resign. He will be replaced by Dave Nelson, director of the agency’s Office of Enterprise Management.

Trenkle's departure comes as the website continues undergoing an enormous repair effort with an aggressive timeline. Indeed, the Obama administration has promised it will be running smoothly for “the vast majority of users” by the end of November.

Still, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversees CMS, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that the website still has hundreds of problems that must be addressed. During her testimony, she also admitted it was possible convicted felons could be hired as “navigators,” since there is no federal requirement for the Obamacare navigators to undergo a criminal background check.

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CMS officials confirmed today that the Obamacare website was experiencing new errors and was running slower than usual. Earlier in the week, its main enrollment function that allows consumers to sign up for health care had crashed.

Administration officials say that because of the continuous technical problems, they expect that the number of people who have enrolled in the exchanges through the website will be quite low.

“Until the site is really improved … we’re going to have a struggle getting significant numbers to sign up,” Sebelius told senators on Wednesday.

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.