DENVER (AP) – The head of a Colorado agency that oversees the insurance business is backing off from an employee’s claims that Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall pressured its employees on reports of health insurance cancellations.
In a letter sent to a Republican state lawmaker Tuesday, the head of the Department of Regulatory Agencies says she investigated an employee’s claim that Udall staffers complained about its figure that nearly 250,000 people got cancellation letters prompted by the new health care law.
DORA Executive Director Barbara Kelley said the agency took the intimidation report seriously but found “no evidence” of undue pressure from Udall’s office.
“There is no information to support an allegation of real (or perceived) intimidation, or inappropriate or undue pressure,” Kelley wrote to state Rep. Amy Stephens, a Republican who is seeking to challenge Udall this fall and requested a review.
The flap concerns a main sticking point in Udall’s 2014 re-election campaign – the idea that Democrats told people during the health care debate that they could keep private insurance if they liked it. Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere have pointed to policy cancellation letters sent last year as evidence that claim was bogus.
Democrats in Colorado have said many of those cancellation letters came with offers for new health insurance plans, making that number misleading.
The dispute over the proper description for Colorado health insurance cancellation notices prompted one staffer to write in an email last year that Udall staffers called trying to “trash our numbers.” That email was first reported earlier this month by the conservative blog Complete Colorado.
Republicans pounced on the staffer’s email as evidence Udall’s office tried to pressure state insurance officials into revising their figures. They weren’t swayed by Tuesday’s assurances from DORA that no undue pressure was applied.
Stephens accused the Colorado agency of trying to “run interference” for Udall and concluded that “the intimidating emails from Udall’s staff speak for themselves.”
Another Republican who raised questions about Udall’s office and the cancellation numbers, U.S. Rep Cory Gardner, got a letter from the health of Colorado’s Division of Insurance Tuesday. Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar praised the queries from Udall’s office that “brought certain information to our attention.”
“We think the senator’s efforts were useful,” Salazar wrote.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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