As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reported Friday afternoon:
State Rep. Amy Stephens on Friday asked the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to investigate reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's office pressured a director at the state Division of Insurance to change the number of insurance policies her office said were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.
"I am deeply concerned about recent reports that U.S. Senator Mark Udall and/or Senator Udall's staff exerted inappropriate and undue pressure on the Colorado Division of Insurance," Stephens, a Republican from Monument, wrote in a letter to DORA executive director Barbara Kelley. "I am requesting that you investigate these reports to determine the level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff, and whether any laws or rules were violated as a result of this conduct."
Politico's Emily Schultheis also filed a report Friday on the kerfluffle over Sen. Mark Udall's attempts last November to clarify disproportionately high figures reported by the state Division of Insurance as "policy cancellations."
In an interview with The Denver Post, Udall, who is up for reelection in November, said it’s “really important to correct the record” on the 250,000 figure, calling it “only 4 percent of the story.”
“I put my team to work to find out whether those numbers would stand up to scrutiny,” he said.
Republicans are jumping on the issue, saying Udall and his team are working to manipulate the numbers so they don’t look as bad for Obamacare.
State Rep. Amy Stephens, one of the Republicans challenging Udall, said his and his staff’s attempts to update the numbers are “appalling and shameful.” State Sen. Owen Hill, another GOP candidate, wrote on his Facebook page that it “looks like Mark Udall tried to ‘cook the books.’” And a spokesman for GOP candidate Ken Buck’s campaign said Udall “seems to be more concerned about the political damage to himself than the damage caused to the 249,000 people who received cancellation notices as a consequence of his vote.”
As we discussed on Friday, Republicans are pushing the rhetoric to the max against Sen. Udall, with former Colorado GOP chair-turned advisor to GOP Senate U.S. candidate Amy Stephens Dick Wadhams going to far as to pronounce this "scandal" worse than the trouble New Jersey Chris Christie is in over politically-motivated traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge.
Sen. Udall has long been considered off the table as a viable take-out target for Republicans in 2014, and it is only recently, after a tough off-year for Colorado Democrats ramped up media speculation, that conventional wisdom has begun to entertain the possibility this race could be competitive. As a result, Republicans are keen to exploit anything they can use against Udall to the maximum possible extent.
But in this case, not only is their "scandal" weak, its unraveling is actually a very bad thing for the GOP. The facts here are very simple: Of the roughly 250,000 policyholders sent "cancellation letters" in Colorado, 96% of them were actually offered renewals for 2014. It's critical to understand that Colorado's implementation of the Affordable Care Act always allowed these plans to be renewed, and this was essentially what President Barack Obama subsequently allowed nationwide to compensate for the troubled rollout of the exchange.
Bottom line: if 250,000 Coloradans had actually lost coverage on January 1, we're pretty sure the outrage would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But it didn't happen. In Colorado, many affected by "cancellation notices" no doubt simply renewed their plans like the letter said, and then wondered what the hubbub was. Thousands of "cancellation notices" were flat-out sent in error by sloppy insurers like low-rated Humana. And most importantly, the new insurance exchange has signed up tens of thousands of people.
Today, Republicans are exploiting a lack of hard information to scare people. A common-sense look at the underlying claims makes it obvious that Sen. Udall's math is closer to the truth than the over-the-top figures, and implied human misery, that Republicans claim. Once these facts are all out in the open, it's not going to be Udall who looks bad, so Republicans are going full-throttle on Udall while they can. In underperforming GOP contender Amy "Amycare" Stephens' case, her possibly unresolvable conflicts with the GOP base on health care oblige her to rage hardest of all.
At some point, the facts will catch up with them. For Sen. Udall, the sooner the better.