CIO at CMS Stepping Down

Move Comes In Wake of Obamacare Tech Woes
CIO at CMS Stepping Down

In the wake of the troubled launch of the website for Obamacare, Tony Trenkle, CIO and director of information services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is stepping down.

See Also: Breaking Down Silos With a Holistic View of Security, Risk

Trenkle will leave Nov. 15 to take a position in the private sector, Michelle Snyder, CMS chief operating officer, announced in a letter to CMS colleagues.

CMS is the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for the site, which facilitates the health insurance exchanges for more than 30 states that chose not to run their own online insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare.

In her letter, which Information Security Media Group obtained, Snyder makes no mention of the project.

The letter notes that Trenkle joined CMS in March 2005 as the director of the Office of E-Health Standards & Services and was responsible for leading national programs for the development and implementation of HIPAA and electronic prescribing standards.

"As the CIO, Tony provided oversight and leadership to CMS' $2 billion annual expenditures on IT products and services," the letter notes.

During his tenure at CMS, Trenkle was also the lead CMS executive for directing the HITECH Act's electronic health record incentive program, according to Trenkle's biography on the CMS site. Trenkle also was CMS's senior privacy official.

Snyder said in her letter that Dave Nelson, currently director of the office of enterprise management, will serve as the acting CIO for CMS upon Trenkle's departure.

Niall Brennan, currently the director of the office of information products and data analytics at OEM, will serve as acting director of OEM. Also, Tim Love, deputy center director at CMS, will serve as acting deputy chief operating officer.

During a HealthCare.Gov operational update press briefing on Nov. 6, a CMS spokeswoman declined to say who is currently the lead IT person at CMS in charge of the effort. Rather, she reiterated that Quality Software Solutions Inc., a unit of United Healthcare, is the contractor leading the technology mitigation efforts of and that there is "a team of folks [from CMS] working with QSSI." (See: Obamacare Website Security Questioned.)

Capitol Hill Hearings

In related developments, HHS officials, including CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, were grilled by Senate committees on Nov. 5 and Nov. 6., respectively, about the technical problems preventing Americans from completing applications and enrolling in healthcare plans on The two officials were also questioned about's technical problems, including security issues, last week by two House subcommittees (see Sebelius Grilled on Obamacare Security).

Under questioning from Senate committee members about the security of the website and the programs supporting Obamacare, Sebelius admitted that criminal background checks were not a requirement of the federal government for "navigators" who are available to help consumers sign up for coverage. During the application process, navigators have access to individuals' personal information, including Social Security numbers. Sebelius noted, however, that states can require criminal background checks for navigators.

Also this week, CMS officials said a glitch that resulted in a North Carolina consumer being able to access the information of a South Carolina consumer on site was "fixed immediately" after it was reported to the agency.

The Obama administration last month named former Office of Budget and Management official Jeff Zients to oversee a "tech surge" to fix the problems with the project (see Critiquing Insurance Exchange Fixes).

About the Author

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Executive Editor, HealthcareInfoSecurity, ISMG

McGee is executive editor of Information Security Media Group's media site. She has about 30 years of IT journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues for more than 15 years. Before joining ISMG in 2012, she was a reporter at InformationWeek magazine and news site and played a lead role in the launch of InformationWeek's healthcare IT media site.

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