GOP blasts Udall for ‘bullying’ Dept. of Insurance over Obamacare cancellations


Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, faces reelection in 2014.

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DENVER — Colorado Republicans are attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for “bullying” the state’s Department of Insurance to revise its estimate that nearly 250,000 Coloradans had their health insurance policies cancelled as a result of Obamacare.

The allegation stems from emails sent by Udall’s deputy chief of staff, Joe Britton, to the insurance division’s director of external affairs, Jo Donlin, back in November.

The emails, first published by the conservative news website “Complete Colorado,” center around the department’s estimate that 249,000 Coloradans saw their policies cancelled as a result of the new health care law.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” Donlin wrote in the Nov. 14 email to Vincent Plymell, a spokesman for the Dept. of Insurance. “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.”

A subsequent email from Britton to Plymell expressed a sense of urgency of revising the number because it could be misleading to the public.

“We need to move on this ASAP – or we’ll be forced to challenge the 249K number ourselves,” Britton wrote. “It is wildly off or at least very misleading and reporters keep repeating it.”

The following day, Nov. 15, a Denver Post story appeared that highlighted Udall’s contention that most of the people categorized as having had their plans cancelled had actually been offered renewals.

“We reached out to the Dept. of Insurance because 250,000 cancellations was radically different than the number we were hearing from the insurance industry,” Udall spokesman Mike Saccone told FOX31 Denver on Thursday.

“In fact, 96 percent of Coloradans who received ‘cancellation letters’ were offered an opportunity to renew their current coverage. To the average Coloradan, that is not a cancellation.”

Republicans, whose strategy of beating Udall in November revolves around tying him to problems with Obamacare, allege that the senator was “bullying” the Dept. of Insurance to revise its numbers out of political concern.

“It’s downright shameful that Sen. Udall would attempt to intimidate state employees to give him political cover after he was caught lying to Coloradans,” Colorado Republican Committee Ryan Call said, alluding to President Obama’s claim, repeated by Udall and other Democrats, that people who liked their existing insurance plans could keep them.

“Coloradans want an honest senator who will do what’s best for the people of our state.  Sadly, today’s news is just further proof that Mark Udall will say or do anything to save his political career.”

Former GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams, who is supporting and advising one of Udall’s possible opponents, state Rep. Amy Stephens, told FOX31 Denver that this “scandal” is worse than this week’s revelations that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s staff created a traffic jam simply to pay back a Democratic official who didn’t support the governor’s reelection bid.

“This deserves a full investigation by federal and state authorities along with the Senate Ethics Committee,” Wadhams said. “What did Senator Udall know and when did he know it when his staff tried to force Colorado insurance officials to falsify their numbers to suit his political purposes?”

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