As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:
Rep. Jared Wright is calling for an audit of the state’s new health insurance exchange.
But the Fruita Republican isn’t asking the Office of the State Auditor to look into why the exchange is far behind its goal for signing Coloradans up for health insurance.
Wright wants State Auditor Dianne Ray to look into how the exchange is managed, and what it’s doing with the millions of dollars in federal money it’s received.
The freshman legislator’s audit request was sparked by a recent request by the president and chief executive officer of the exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, to its governing board for a pay raise and bonus for her and her management staff.
That CEO, Patty Fontneau, already makes more than $190,000 a year.
“This is an appalling and extraordinarily audacious request, especially considering that the program which Ms. Fontneau oversees has spectacularly underperformed, failing to meet the minimum goals and standards of even the worst-case projections,” Wright says in his letter to Ray, which he sent on Thursday. “Despite receiving $177 million in federal grants to fund the exchange through mid-2016, its enrollments are far below what officials predicted. It is disturbing that the person in charge of a program with such a dismal record of performance is paid more than the governor.”
We'll start by acknowledging that freshman Rep. Jared Wright's questioning of the Colorado health insurance exchange isn't quite as wacky as longtime Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, who made an ass of himself by obsessing about racy ads from a nonprofit group that had no affiliation whatsoever with Connect for Health Colorado. And we'll agree that the flap about bonuses for CEO Patty Fortneau and her staff was very ill-timed given the startup troubles the system has had. We're happy to see they've tabled that discussion until the exchange is working well enough to at least remotely justify it.
But folks, to have freshman Rep. Jared Wright of all people leading this call to "audit" Connect for Health Colorado is the surest way to make a joke of the whole thing. Rep. Wright, as our readers know, was the subject of a concerted effort by fellow Mesa County Republicans to persuade Wright to pull out of the "race" for his safe GOP seat. That push came after revelations that Wright resigned from the Fruita Police Department after allegations of "milking the clock"–radioing in to "start his shift" while still at home. Soon after, Wright's personal 2011 bankruptcy case made headlines: not because he had a tough financial stretch like many others in recent years, but due to the extravagant "muscle car/tanning booth" lifestyle he had apparently been leading on a rookie cop's salary.
This is the guy who's all up in arms today about how the health insurance exchange is spending its money?
Our readers understand that a large undertaking like the launch of the health insurance exchange is going to require spending: on staff salaries, on public relations people, on all kinds of things that might be cast unfavorably depending on larger narratives. It's standard politics, especially when an opening appears like the exchange's rollout problems, to exploit it to the fullest–as the saying goes, to "drive the bus."
Next time, Republicans should look for a less hypocritical bus driver.