A top official involved in the failed rollout of the HealthCare.gov health insurance marketplace is resigning from his position, this according to an announcement made by the Centers of Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on Wednesday.
As Chief Information Officer for CMS, Tony Trenkle, a veteran official, was in charge of security efforts for the HealthCare.gov website. His main responsibility was determining whether private information entered into the exchange system would be safe from hackers and identity thieves.
Trenkle’s resignation comes just days after a CBS report found that the final security testing for the HealthCare.gov website was delayed three times and ultimately never completed. According to an Obama administration memo released by the House Oversight Committee, four days before the site went live the government granted itself a waiver to launch the website with “a level of uncertainty…deemed as a high (security) risk.” Trenkle’s boss and CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner signed off on the authorization.
Trenkle, however, along with two other CMS officials, including Chief Operating Officer Michelle Snyder, signed an unusual “risk acknowledgement,” stating that the agency’s plan for rigorous monitoring and testing did “not reduce the (security) risk to the…system itself going into operation on October 1, 2013.”
In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress she was not aware of the special security waiver approved by Tavenner, her agency head.
“I was not aware of this and I did not have these discussions with the White House because I wasn’t aware of them,” she testified.
Democrats and Republicans alike have raised numerous security concerns in the two days of Senate hearings, grilling both Sebelius and Tavenner about the safety of consumers’ private information.
“This is a paramount concern,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). “Consumers have to be absolutely certain that when they go and they fill out that application…no one can hack into that and steal their Social Security numbers or identity.”
Health and Human Services maintains that there is an aggressive risk mitigation plan in effect, that “the privacy and security of consumers’ personal information is a top priority for us,” and that personal information is “protected by stringent security standards.”
However, Georgetown Law professor Lawrence Gostin, a strong supporter of the ACA who helped Congress write the law, is critical of the decision to launch without property security.
“They should’ve really had this fully tested from top to bottom before the rollout,” he said. “It would’ve made so much more sense politically, policy-wise and from a security and privacy perspective.”
As for Trenkle, who, according to Wednesday’s statement, will step down on November 15 “to take a position in the private sector,” it is currently unclear whether he was pressured to resign or did so willing.
Either way, he is the first official directly involved in the failed HealthCare.gov launch to step down. Many have repeatedly called for Kathleen Sebelius herself to either resign or be fired. What do you think? Should Kathleen Sebelius keep her job? Should someone be fired over the Obamacare website?