In an assiduous effort to minimize any negative publicity surrounding the rollout of Obamacare in his home State, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) attempted to get the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) to lie about the number of Coloradans whose existing policies were being canceled. But one DOI staffer wasn’t going to be bullied by the Senator.
The Complete Colorado, an independent political blog covering State politics, got access to emails that DOI Director of Internal Affairs Jo Donlin had sent to colleagues after being pressured by Udall.
Udall, an ardent supporter of Obamacare, wanted the State to report low policy cancellation numbers — but low cancellation rates were not what the numbers showed. According to The Complete Colorado:
At the height of controversy surrounding President Obama’s promises on the federal health care overhaul, U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office worked assiduously to revise press accounts that 249,000 Coloradans received health care cancellation notices. Because the 249,000 figure was produced inside the Colorado Division of Insurance, Udall’s office lobbied that agency to revise the figure, or revise their definition of what qualified as a cancellation.
Donlin sent out a warning to colleagues in a Nov. 14 email last year, letting DOI employees know where the agency stood on the matter:
Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.
Donlin followed that up the next day by contacting Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s office, as well as Udall’s staff, with her breakdown of the DOI accurately arrived at the 249,000 figure. It’s worth noting also that, during the same six-week Obamacare launch window that saw the 249,000 in-State cancellations, only 3,700 Coloradans had actually enrolled in a new plan through the State-run Obamacare marketplace.
As the original story observes, the timing of Udall’s original communication with DOI — in which he first pressured the agency to spin the high cancellation numbers — came as the Senator was in the midst of an abrupt about-face in his support for the first-year mandates attached to the Affordable Care Act.