POLITICS: PennAve

Official in charge of healthcare.gov rollout is retiring

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Health Care,PennAve,Healthcare.gov

The official responsible for overseeing the problem-plagued healthcare.gov website is retiring on Tuesday.

In an email to colleagues, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services chief Marilyn Tavenner said that Michelle Snyder -- the chief operating officer and second-highest ranking official at the agency -- was retiring “after 41 years of outstanding public service.”

“While we celebrate her distinguished career, we are also sadly saying farewell to a good friend and a key member of the agency’s leadership team,” Tavenner said in the email. “Michelle’s intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic have been indispensable to me and to many of you during her tenure.”

President Obama has been criticized for not firing any of the officials tasked with implementing the online marketplaces, which launched with numerous technical problems.

Administration officials did not attribute Snyder's exit to the dismal healthcare.gov performance, saying that she had been expected to leave at the end of 2012.

Snyder's departure comes after Tony Trenkle, the Medicare agency's chief information officer, left the administration in November to take a job in the private sector. Like Snyder, administration officials claimed Trenkle's move had nothing to do with the performance of the Obamacare website.

However, Snyder was a major target of the administration’s critics during contentious Obamacare hearings on Capitol Hill.

When Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., insisted that Snyder was the "one responsible for this debacle,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to Snyder's defense.

“Hold me accountable for the debacle,” Sebelius said. “I’m responsible.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Monday said Snyder should shoulder blame for putting Americans' personal information at risk.

"Documents and interviews indicate Michelle Snyder's involvement in bypassing the recommendation of CMS' top security expert who recommended delaying the launch of healthcare.gov after independent testers raised concern about serious vulnerabilities from a lack of adequate security testing," Issa said. "Americans seeking health insurance are left to shoulder the risk of a website that's still an all-around work in progress because of the cult like commitment officials had to the arbitrary goal of launching on Oct. 1."

The New York Times first reported Snyder's retirement.

Obama has been reluctant throughout his presidency to hand high-ranking officials pink slips for poor performance, dismissing such calls as typical Washington chatter.

Still, even allies of the White House said the personnel move sent a clear message.

“If anyone had to go,” conceded one House Democratic aide, “it was probably [Snyder].”

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