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The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as "Obamacare", outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Miss., Oct. 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman) The federal government forms for applying for health coverage are seen at a rally held by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as "Obamacare", outside the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center in Jackson, Miss., Oct. 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)  

Colorado Obamacare CEO withdraws request for raise and bonus amid outrage

The CEO of Colorado’s struggling state health-care exchange is back-pedaling from her request for a bump in pay in the face of public outcry.

Patty Fontneau, who earns more than $190,000 a year in taxpayer-funded salary, asked the board of Colorado’s state-run health-care exchange for a three percent raise and a 10 percent end-of-year bonus in October. At the time, hardly anyone was using the exchange to purchase private insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

After the first two months, only 9,980 people had used the exchange to buy insurance, less than half of the 22,000 administrators had estimated as a low-end number of new customers.

Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner blasted Fontneau’s request and promised to introduce legislation that would block any bonuses or raises for administrators at the 17 state-run health-care exchanges.

“When they’re not even meeting half of the worst case scenario, no one deserves a raise,” Gardner told the Denver Post. “That would be like Congress asking for a raise and I think the American people would revolt.”

Fontneau received a $5,000 raise in 2012, the Post reported. Her chief financial officer and chief operating officer each earn $164,000 and also received raises. Salaries are funded through a number of federal grants that finance the first few years of Connect for Health Colorado, the state exchange. Federal funding ends in mid-2016, when the exchange is meant to be self-sufficient, but the state is far from its goal of enrolling enough customers to ensure that it is. Colorado needs to sign up at least 136,000 people in 2014.

Republican state representative Jared Wright is also outraged by the request, demanding a state audit of the program.

“These are troubling issues,” he told the Post.

Meanwhile, Fontneau has withdrawn her requests for a pay raise and bonus, calling the uproar a distraction from their need to enroll more people.

“To a person, my staff and team of contractors have worked tirelessly to launch and improve our health insurance marketplace and I am proud of their accomplishments, especially amid many external challenges,” she said in a statement first reported in the Post. “While we have much more work to do to improve our operations, we are encouraged to see that enrollments are hitting record levels. We have asked the Board to table any discussions about compensation for management, so that we can focus on enrollments during this critical time.”

It’s not clear whether Fontneau would have been approved for a bonus and raise. Board member Ellen Daehnick called the request “incredibly audacious” last week, “given the poor performance for the first two months of enrollments.”

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