We may have just witnessed the first administration official to take a fall for the disastrous launch of federal insurance marketplace Healthcare.gov. Tony Trenkle, the chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the health department agency that oversaw the website's development, is stepping down.
As first reported by The New York Times, Trenkle sent out an email today announcing his resignation effective November 15th. Trenkle will be retiring to take a job in the private sector, the email reportedly said. Nothing was mentioned about the healthcare website.
Healthcare.gov was so plagued with technical issues that only six people were able to sign up in its initial 24 hours. Government officials have been pointing fingers at private contractors, especially CGI Federal, which held the largest contract. CGI Federal and other contractors pointed back to CMS, which was supposed to coordinate work between the 55 companies that built the site.
Some members of Congress have called for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the highest-ranking official who could be held responsible. That looks unlikely, however, even though Sebelius told a Congressional committee to "hold me accountable for the debacle."
The timing suggests he is the first person to be held responsible for Healthcare.gov's problems
Trenkle's resignation was not explicitly tied to the Healthcare.gov launch, but the timing of the announcement suggests he is the first person to be held responsible for the site's ongoing problems, which the administration has said will be fixed by November 30th.
Trenkle was the direct boss of deputy CIO Henry Chao, who frequently visited the White House and whose name was repeatedly mentioned during oversight hearings. Chao appears to remain in his position for now.
Healthcare.gov was supposed to be the primary way for Americans to buy health insurance, which is now required under the Affordable Care Act. The problems with the site have been deeply embarrassing for the Obama administration and also made it easy for Republican opponents to attack the president's flagship legislation.