[dropcap]U[/dropcap].S. Senator Mark Udall’s office did not in any way pressure state insurance regulatory department staffers to revise the number of insurance policies canceled this year due to changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, according to state officials.
“A fact finding review revealed no evidence of any intimidation and the ‘level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff’ was zero,” wrote Barbara Kelley, director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies in response to a letter of inquiry from state Representative Amy Stephens. “There is no information to support an allegation of real (or perceived) intimidation, or inappropriate or undue pressure. There was a disagreement among staff about how to characterize the data. However, the situation was neither received, nor acted upon as coercive or intimidating.”
Stephens is one of four Republicans running to replace Democrat Udall next year. Conservative-politics machinery was set into high gear this week when email exchanges between Udall’s office and the state insurance department were posted online by conservative blog site Complete Colorado. The emails were presented as evidence that Udall’s office was seeking to intimidate state staffers for political reasons. Former Chair of the state Republican Party Dick Wadhams, now an advisor to Stephens, said the emails were worse than “Bridgegate,” the scandal engulfing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, where his office orchestrated wrenching miles-long traffic jams over the course of four days out of what appears to be political pique.
Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who has spent years running against health care reform, stoked the Udall story from Washington. He appeared on Fox News last week and said the emails suggested Udall was “abusing the power of his office.” Gardner sent a letter seeking explanation to state Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. Her letter of response was similarly unequivocal in dismissing any notion that Udall’s office was acting unethically.
“Senator Udall’s staff was doing their own research separate and apart from the Division,” she wrote. “[His office] brought certain information to our attention, including the fact that [insurers] were sending notices that included renewal options. Moreover, we think the Senator’s efforts were useful.”
Salazar on Monday told state senators voting on her confirmation much the same story, that Udall’s inquiries were unintimidating and helpful to her staff in drilling down into how insurers were treating consumers in reaction to implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
See the full text of the letters below.