Heads have yet to roll over the botched launch of healthcare.gov, with one notable exception: Tony Trenkle.
The former chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the lone high-profile official on his way out of the Obama administration as a result of the problems that have virtually paralyzed the federal health exchanges. Trenkle, who was one of the central officials involved in constructing healthcare.gov, will leave his post Nov. 15 for a job in the private sector, CMS officials said.
Administration officials have refused to link Trenkle’s exit to the glitch-filled website, but it comes as they take an all-hands-on-deck approach to fixing the technical problems by Nov. 30.
"Tony made a decision to move to the private sector," CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said, declining to further elaborate on the decision.
With a lengthy resume in government, Trenkle held similar tech positions at the General Services Administration and the Social Security Administration. His biography was removed from the CMS website after his move was announced.
Trenkle was on the hook for more than just keeping the online marketplaces up and running.
One of his main responsibilities was ensuring that consumers’ information would be protected from hackers. But an inspector general's report found that security measures for healthcare.gov weren’t tested sufficiently before the launch of the website, creating possible vulnerabilities for people trying to enroll in new health plans.
The Obama administration insists that these issues have been fixed, but the episode was an embarrassment for the White House when it was already on the defensive over President Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
Some sources close to the president believe that Trenkle’s resignation could carry symbolic importance, particularly if the Obamacare mess doesn’t go away soon.
“If they don’t turn this around, you’ll start seeing some more so-called personnel decisions,” a former senior Obama administration official told the Washington Examiner. “They put out a clear deadline. Now they meet it — or else.”
The administration has said healthcare.gov will run “smoothly” for the majority of users by Dec. 1. Jeff Zients, an Obama ally and future economic adviser, was brought in to lead the fix-it efforts.
Republicans were hardly assuaged by the departure of Trenkle, continuing to call for the ouster of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, among other high-level administration officials.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that [Trenkle] has been the only person to go,” a senior House GOP leadership aide said. “What does it take to get fired in this administration? Can you imagine if this kind of thing happened in the private sector?”