Official who led rollout steps down

by Jonathan Allen - Politico


Michelle Snyder, Health Official Who Oversaw Obamacare Rollout, is Retiring

The official in charge of developing the Affordable Care Act’s website is retiring from federal service on Tuesday. Michelle Snyder, the chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had intended to leave last year after four decades in public service but stayed on to “help me with the challenges facing CMS in 2013,” the agency’s chief, Marilyn Tavenner, wrote in an email to staff on Monday.

Snyder’s departure was first reported by The New York Times. While Snyder isn’t the first high-ranking CMS official to head for the exit since the botched rollout of the Obamacare website on Oct. 1 — Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle left in November — she became the subject of finger-pointing during oversight hearings on Capitol Hill this fall.

“Michelle Snyder is the one responsible for this debacle,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) charged in an exchange with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in late October, after pushing Sebelius to name the official who ran the website development effort. “Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle,” Sebelius fired back. “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

In her Monday email, one day before Snyder’s departure, Tavenner never mentioned the Affordable Care Act directly. Instead, she praised Snyder for her “intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic.”

“Michelle’s accomplishments over her career have been numerous and wide-ranging including leading the successful development and deployment of the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System (HIGLAS), that introduced an unprecedented level of fiscal accountability and discipline to the management of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual Medicare program expenditures; achieving the Agency’s first clean financial audit opinion; establishing the Medicare Error Rate Measurement program; expanding community-based health center programs; developing the Agency’s first Federally-Funded Research and Development Center for healthcare; and establishing CMS’ Mentoring Program,” Tavenner wrote. Despite calls for firings from both parties in Congress, the administration has not announced the dismissal of anyone over the flawed execution of the website or other troubles that have hampered the rollout of the new health insurance exchanges at the heart of the law.

House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) slammed the departing Snyder. “Documents and interviews indicate Michelle Snyder’s involvement in bypassing the recommendation of CMS’ top security expert who recommended delaying the launch of after independent testers raised concern about serious vulnerabilities from a lack of adequate security testing,” he said in a statement. “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 October 1.”

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