Retiring Obamacare Manager Draws Both Praise and Fire

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Evan Vucci/AP

Michelle Snyder, the high-level Medicare and Medicaid officer and a key manager of the disastrous rollout of the Obama administration’s online health insurance exchange, retired Tuesday amid high praise from her bosses at the Health and Human Services Department and withering criticism from Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act.

Snyder, who ends her 41-year federal career as chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was “a good friend and a key member of the agency's leadership team” Marilyn Tavenner, the CMS administrator said in an email to HHS senior staff during Christmas week. Snyder’s “intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic have been indispensable to me and to many of you,” Tavenner added, exhorting colleagues to celebrate the retiring manager’s “dedication to a mission that provides vital health care services to tens of millions of our fellow Americans.”  

Snyder originally planned to retire a year ago, Tavenner noted, but was persuaded to stay on after Tavenner was confirmed in the top CMS job. Her career accomplishments included introducing “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. <p>

Snyder’s name came up several times during congressional hearings on the troubled website, HealthCare.gov, at the center of President Obama’s key domestic program and she is the second high-level HHS official (following chief information officer Tony Trenkle last month) to leave during the disputatious launch of Obamacare.

On Monday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement, "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. 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." 

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