Will Heads Roll? Who Gets Fired Over Obamacare?

HealthCare.gov improved, but Obama cites "poor execution."

ByABC News
December 5, 2013, 3:09 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2013 — -- The development and roll-out of the federal online health insurance marketplace has been panned inside and outside the White House as a management fiasco. But still unclear, two months after its launch, is whether any administration officials directly responsible for the project will be shown the door.

With HealthCare.gov now vastly improved, there is renewed focus on accountability for the troubled launch that came after three years of planning and more than $600 million spent. President Obama hasn't indicated who, if anybody, he might fire.

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Obama hasn't been bashful about casting blame generally, on Wednesday citing "poor execution" by his team in getting the website up and running and conceding that "nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months."

A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services this week fingered "inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams" as primary factors in the roll-out mess.

"The conclusion was that HealthCare.gov was fixable if we made significant changes to the management approach," said Jeff Zients, the administration official brought in to lead the repair effort, on Sunday.

"We needed to get the team working with the speed and urgency of a high-performing private sector tech company," he said. The implication is that the team had not been sufficiently motivated or directed ahead of the Oct. 1 launch.

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None of the senior staff overseeing the website and its team of developers have been publicly disciplined or dismissed. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner, CMS project manager Henry Chao and other top IT officials remain at their posts.

The only shake-up since the rocky roll-out came early last month when CMS chief information officer Tony Trenkle quietly announced his retirement. Officials said at the time that Trenkle decided to leave of his own accord to take a new job in the private sector. He is the first and only official with ties to the botched roll-out of HealthCare.gov to leave the administration.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Tuesday that responsibility for failures of that team rises to the West Wing. "That's on us, that's on me," he said at a health care policy forum in Washington. "As soon as we realized there were problems, we put in an A Team of experts to work."

Many Republicans and Democrats have questioned why the administration did not have the "A Team" in place to begin with. In late October, after a barrage of website outages and glitches, the White House announced a "tech surge" – a combination of government contractors and private sector experts – to turn things around.

CGI Federal and QSSI, the two primary contractors that built the federal insurance portal from the ground up, have largely deflected blame, pointing the finger at the Obama administration for delayed decision-making and flawed planning.

"It will be inexplicable if somebody involved in the creation of the website doesn't get fired or a group of people don't get fired," former Obama adviser and spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday on "Now with Alex Wagner."