CMS CIO Leaves Mess For Private Sector

CIO Tony Trenkle, who oversaw $2 billion IT office for CMS, including program, heads for the private sector.

The CIO for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Tony Trenkle, is leaving CMS, the agency embroiled in the ill-fated rollout of government's insurance marketplace website.

Trenkle, who directs CMS's Office of Information Servicesand oversees $2 billion in annual IT spending at CMS, is departing effective Nov. 15 to take an undisclosed position in the private sector. His departure was announced in an internal agency memo released today from by CMS chief operating officer Michelle Snyder.

Dave Nelson, currently director of the Office of Enterprise Management at CMS and an U.S. Air Force veteran, will serve as acting CIO upon Trenkle's departure, according to Snyder.

It remains unclear to what extent Trenkle was directly involved in the management of the insurance exchange site's development, which has come under intense scrutiny since its launch Oct. 1 after coding errorsprevented the exchange from operating properly.

The project was one of many enterprise operations under Trenkle's supervision. He oversaw a wide range of project groups responsible for supporting CMS's vast enterprise operations, including the databases and infrastructure associated with Medicaid and Medicare, the agency's claims payment systems and the agency's the consumer information and insurance systems group.

Trenkle's deputy, Henry Chao, however, was among those who recommended that CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner issue an Authority-to-Operate the insurance exchange, despite incomplete security tests, according to a Sept. 27 CMS memoreleased by the House committee on oversight and government reform. The document was co-signed by James Kerr, consortium administrator for Medicare health plans operations.

Trenkle joined CMS in 2005 as director of the Office of E-Health Standards & Services, where he led the national development and implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and electronic prescribing standards. He has overseen e-commerce projects for the General Services Administration and led efforts at the Social Security Administration in rolling out online public services, including the first online Social Security application. His plans in the private sector were not disclosed.

About a third of the 3.7 million Americans who attempted to register the first week after the marketplace's Oct. 1 launch were successful. Seven million Americans are expected to be insured under the Affordable Care Act, and they must enroll using the marketplaces by Dec. 15 in order to have coverage start on Jan. 1.

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