New emails have been released relating to U.S. Senator Mark Udall and his staff questioning the final tabulation of health care policy cancellations across Colorado in 2013.
Originally, the Division of Insurance (DOI) legally withheld the emails from a Colorado Open Records Act request via the “deliberative process” privilege*. On Wednesday, March 12, CompleteColorado.com asked the DOI to waive the privilege, which would then require them to release the emails. That request was granted early this morning, Monday, March 17.
The emails add support to the notion that the DOI disagreed with the narrative Udall’s office was trying to supplant, arguing that because a majority of cancelled plans were also offered renewal opportunities, no “cancellation” had actually happened.
In a portion of an email sent by the DOI’s Director of External Affairs, Jo Donlin said:
“Udall is broad brushing and assuming that because Anthem and Kaiser offered early renewals, the people who received that option after receiving a cellation [sic] notice should not be counted. Commissioner Salazar would like to tell Sen. Udall that 250,000 people were in fact affected by cancellation notices.”
Emails originally obtained by CompleteColorado.com in January created controversy for the Senator and his vote for President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In one of those emails, Donlin said Udall’s office was trying to “trash” the cancellation numbers as tallied by the DOI. In another email, Donlin complained that she received a “very hostile” call from Udall’s deputy chief of staff after she had informed the Senator’s office that the DOI was unlikely to change or modify their calculation of 250,000 policy cancellations in 2013.
The flap ultimately forced the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA, which is the parent agency to the Division of Insurance) to create a “panel” to investigate whether or not Donlin had been intimidated or bullied by Udall’s staff. DORA’s investigation supposedly cleared Udall’s staff of any wrongdoing or untoward activity, but yet another controversy was created when DORA was forced to admit they had no documentation whatsoever of the panel or its activities.
Most of the new emails released are from November 15, one day after Udall’s office made its original inquiries with Donlin and the DOI about the cancellation numbers.
Udall’s office did eventually issue their own press release, which netted them a significant story in the Denver Post. In another email, Donlin sent a link of the online Denver Post story to her colleagues, pointing out that the story quoted “Sen. Udall staff,” which seems to highlight that the story did not name an individual directly. Furthermore, Donlin said the online comments were “interesting.” Many of those online comments were critical of both Udall and the Post‘s story. For example, commenter dwschulze said, “So a Democrat who supported Obamacare says that most of the cancelled policies aren’t really cancelled. And you support that with a statement from another Obamacare supporter. You need to provide some independent verification of Udall’s statement for it to be anything but another dubious statement about Obamacare.”
All of the new emails provided today are embedded or linked below.
J.donlin UdallPR 11.15.2013 – WM by CompleteColorado
Alan Salazar, political advisor to Governor Hickenlooper – “run interference”
DORA Director Barbara Kelley “agrees with our position”
Donlin tells Alan Salazar says we’re getting calls about “Udall’s numbers.”
*The deliberative process privilege allows for documents that otherwise would be open records to be withheld if “the material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government,” according to Colorado Revised Statute § 24-72-204(3)(a)(XIII).
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