Gardner asks Hickenlooper to restore canceled health care plans

Politics

Congressman Cory Gardner, a Republican challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall this fall, wrote a letter urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to take action to allow Coloradans to keep healthcare policies that have been changed or cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

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DENVER — Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall this November, is asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to restore health care plans for the more than 335,000 Coloradans who received policy cancellation notices as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter Wednesday from Gardner’s congressional office to Hickenlooper obtained by FOX31 Denver, the congressman asks that the governor pursue “any available constitutional remedy” to make good on President Obama’s infamous campaign promise, oft repeated by Udall and countless Democrats, that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

“It is the right thing for your administration to pursue any legal avenue to allow insurance providers to restore cancelled plans for the foreseeable future,” Gardner writes in the letter. “This decision will provide Coloradans with certainty that their healthcare plan will not change.”

In the letter, Gardner notes that the 335,000 Coloradans who got cancellations — 92 percent of whom did get renewal options — amount to far more than the roughly 120,000 people who bought new policies on the state’s new health insurance exchange.

After the outcry from Americans not expecting policy cancellation letters, most of which simply offered different renewal options (many of them more expensive but also more comprehensive), President Obama did exactly what Gardner is asking Hickenlooper to do, suggesting that states relying on the federal health care exchange allow consumers to keep policies that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act’s coverage mandates for another year (Udall had introduced a proposal to extend non-compliant policies another two years).

But in states like Colorado, which operates its own exchange, it’s been less clear whether action must be taken by the state to change the law in order for consumers to keep non-compliant policies — or if previously canceled plans even can be restored at this point.

Hickenlooper’s office, which has already been investigating that very issue for more than a month, told FOX31 Denver Thursday morning that restoring previously canceled policies cannot be done.

“The Congressman might have saved postage by calling Attorney General Suthers,” said an administration source.

Interestingly, the governor’s office also received a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request on Wednesday for public records relating to its communications with insurance carriers and Udall about the Affordable Care Act.

In January, Republicans alleged that Udall tried to pressure the Colorado Dept. of Insurance to revise downward its estimate that 250,000 Coloradans had, at that point, gotten cancellation notices after obtaining emails between a Udall staffer and an insurance department official.

Within days, state officials investigated the exchange of emails and concluded that Udall’s office was simply investigating the numbers, not attempting to bully the state into lowering its estimated number of policy cancellations for political reasons.

The letter to Hickenlooper, despite being sent from the congressman’s official office, is hard not to view in political terms, given that Gardner has made his opposition to the Affordable Care Act — and Udall’s support for it — the central pillar of his Senate campaign.

“My guess is they caught wind of [us investigating whether canceled policies can be restored] and are trying to preempt any announcement we have on the topic to claim credit for it,” said a Hickenlooper administration source.

“And the CORA request seems aimed to prove that anything we might do in this arena was motivated by concerns expressed by Udall.”

Nationwide, more than eight million Americans signed up for health care plans on the federal and state exchanges in the first six months of open enrollment, surpassing the Obama administration’s original goal of seven million sign-ups.

 

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