Democrats join GOP behind bill to audit Colorado health insurance exchange

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DENVER — Last year when Republicans called for an audit of Colorado’s new health insurance exchange, Democrats voted the measure down.

This year, with control of the state Senate having flipped to the GOP, Democrats joined Republicans in supporting a measure that would grant the state auditor the authority to conduct a performance review of Connect for Health Colorado.

Whereas Democrats were reluctant to aid Republicans in doing additional political damage to Obamacare in the run-up to an election year, the state audit released in December of last year, which revealed sloppy bookkeeping, inadequate oversight and overspending on contractors, made it difficult for them to resist the latest effort for additional oversight.

“Since a very limited audit of Colorado’s health care exchange turned up a number of serious problems, it’s important we have a full performance audit to really look under the hood of this problem plagued organization,” said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 19, which passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday on a unanimous vote.

“Taxpayers deserve to know if their money is being spent appropriately and this legislation is a big step forward for accountability at Colorado’s health care exchange. It’s a shame that partisan Democrats and Connect for Health fought this audit so hard last year instead of opening up their books for inspection. In the meantime we’ve seen rampant mismanagement and misplaced priorities instead of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”

The same panel also advanced Senate Bill 52, which would require any bonus for executives at Connect for Health Colorado to be approved by the Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Implementation Review Committee.

That 3-2 vote broke along party lines with the committee’s Democrats voting against the bill.

Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, brought the bill forward following news last year that the exchange awarded its former CEO Patty Fontenau a $14,000 bonus.

“Coloradans expect their tax dollars to be spent wisely and awarding bonuses to executives of a struggling organization like Connect for Health Colorado doesn’t live up to that standard,” said Crowder. “I’m proud this bill has passed committee and I look forward to it passing both chambers of the legislature and being signed by Governor Hickenlooper.”

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