Democrat senator pressures Colorado officials to revise ObamaCare cancellation numbers

There’s a big controversy brewing in Colorado, where staffers for Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) are accused of leaning hard on the state Division of Insurance to revise its tally of insurance policies canceled because of Obama’s Big Lie.  Udall is personally on record repeating the Big Lie himself, falsely assuring the people of his state in 2009, “If you have an insurance policy you like, a doctor or medical facility that provides medical services to you, you’ll be able to keep your doctor or your plan.” 

In essence, the Division announced that an eye-popping 250,000 policies were canceled in the state due to ObamaCare.  Senator Udall argues that about 95 percent of those people were offered renewals following these cancellations.  After feeling the heat from Udall’s office, the director of internal affairs for the Colorado agency, Jo Donilon, complained: “Senator Udall says our numbers were wrong.  They’re not wrong.  Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people.  They want to trash our numbers.  I’m holding strong while they get more details.”

A partisan wrestling match unsurprisingly ensued, given that Udall is up for re-election in 2014, as chronicled by Politico:

After Donlin tried to clarify the numbers to [Udall legislative director Joe] Britton, she emailed a colleague saying she received a “very hostile call from Sen. Udall’s deputy chief of staff.”

In an interview with The Denver Post, Udall, who is up for reelection in November, said it’s “really important to correct the record” on the 250,000 figure, calling it “only 4 percent of the story.”

“I put my team to work to find out whether those numbers would stand up to scrutiny,” he said.

Republicans are jumping on the issue, saying Udall and his team are working to manipulate the numbers so they don’t look as bad for Obamacare.

State Rep. Amy Stephens, one of the Republicans challenging Udall, said his and his staff’s attempts to update the numbers are “appalling and shameful.” State Sen. Owen Hill, another GOP candidate, wrote on his Facebook page that it “looks like Mark Udall tried to ‘cook the books.'” And a spokesman for GOP candidate Ken Buck’s campaign said Udall “seems to be more concerned about the political damage to himself than the damage caused to the 249,000 people who received cancellation notices as a consequence of his vote.”

The Daily Caller quotes Ryan Call of the Colorado Republican Party declaring, “It’s downright shameful that Senator Udall would attempt to intimidate state employees to give him political cover after he was caught lying to Coloradoans.” The former chair of the Colorado GOP, Dick Wadhams, called Udall’s conduct “reprehensible” and said it merits “a full investigation by federal and state authorities.”  

The Denver Post includes this odd detail from the response to accusations of political intimidation at the Colorado Division of Insurance:

Division of Insurance Commissioner [Marguerite] Salazar said Thursday that there was no “ongoing pattern of intimidation” with Colorado’s senior senator and her staffers.

Salazar declined to let Donlin give her own interview but said, “I can speak for Jo that she did not feel intimidated. She’s been doing this for a long time.”

She called the exchange between her office and Udall’s in mid-November “a very candid discussion back and forth about how we arrived at our numbers. … By the end of the day, things were very calm.”

We’re not going to let Ms. Donilon give her own interview, but rest assured, she didn’t feel intimidated by that very hostile call from the Senator’s chief of staff!

Now, speaking as a relentless critic of ObamaCare and the endless stream of lies its defenders have been pumping out – from 2009 until the present day, with no end in sight – it would be deceptive to deny that 250,000 people lost their insurance; that is an objective fact.  If 238,000 of them subsequently received offers from their insurance providers to renew coverage, that is also a relevant fact, and it would also be deceptive to conceal it.  That still leaves some 12,000 people out of luck thanks to Obama and Udall’s Big Lie.  They’re welcome to search Senator Udall’s 2009 rhetoric for any mention that 12,000 people were going to get hosed out of their insurance plans, just as President Obama’s rhetoric is devoid of any warnings that a few million people would see their coverage destroyed by his big scheme.

I can’t imagine this is the only example of heated rhetoric between a Senator’s office and state authorities, over ObamaCare or a variety of other topics, so based on what I’ve heard so far, it seems like a stretch to accuse Udall’s people of reprehensible arm-twisting.  Fair enough to criticize him for wanting to revise the official numbers, but let’s not over-dramatize a testy phone call or two into an abuse-of-power scandal.

As for those 238,000 or so Colorado residents who saw their insurance canceled, but received offers to renew, there’s not much information in the Denver Post story about whether those renewals were for precisely equivalent price and value.  But it does include this quote from an industry spokeswoman:

“I do think it was appropriate for Udall’s office to seek more information, to know what’s happening in the state you represent, and how peoples’ lives are being impacted,” said Rebecca Weiss, Anthem’s government-relations director in Colorado. “The first step is gathering objective data.”

“Virtually every Anthem-insured policyholder scheduled for discontinuation had been given an option to continue that coverage through the end of November 2014, and thereby avoided the discontinuation as originally scheduled for one year,” Weiss said. By November, she said, about 13 percent of individual policyholders had opted for renewal, and 28 percent of small group/business consumers.

Oh, I see.  All set for one more year then.  Problem solved.


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