Key official in health care website launch to retire today

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WASHINGTON -- A top Obama administration official who helped oversee the rollout of will retire today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced.

The departure of CMS chief operating officer Michelle Snyder comes after the agency significantly improved the online health exchange's performance but still is addressing security concerns.

Ms. Snyder is the second administration official to leave the agency since the system launched in October with numerous glitches that prevented users from enrolling. Tony Trenkle, who was the agency's chief information officer, left for the private sector in November.

CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced Ms. Snyder's retirement in an email to employees, saying, "Michelle's intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic have been indispensable to me and to many of you during her tenure."

Ms. Snyder, the highest-ranking official responsible for to exit since the site's rollout, has worked in public service for 41 years, including a stint as CMS deputy chief operating officer. The agency said she helped it to expand its community-based health center programs, establish an employee mentorship program and achieve its first clean financial audit.

A Washington Post report in November revealed that CMS staffers were aware as late as January that progress on was lagging, and that adequate system testing might not be possible in time for the site's launch. An August inspector general's report warned that CMS might not be able to fully assess the site's security risks before the planned rollout Oct. 1.

Eleven days before that deadline, CMS chief information security officer Teresa Fryer recommended denying authorization for the launch, describing the system as a "high risk," according to closed-door testimony she gave to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigators.

On Sept. 27, Ms. Snyder authorized the online exchange to operate, with plans to test it regularly over the next six months. The site went live five days later with myriad failures that blocked user registrations.

The agency last week said no person or group has maliciously accessed users' personal information.

Despite's early woes, the site is functioning better amid ongoing fixes. The Obama administration this week said more than 1.1 million Americans have signed up using the portal.

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