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Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall talks to the media after a Senate Intelligence Committee closed hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas) Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall talks to the media after a Senate Intelligence Committee closed hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2012. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)  

Udall’s office accused of ‘bullying’ over Obamacare cancellations

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is under fire for trying to get the state to lower its November estimate of 250,000 insurance cancellation notices as a result of Obamacare.

According to emails obtained by Complete Colorado, Udall’s staff tried to convince the insurance division that the number of cancellations was much lower, because many of those who received the notices were given the option of renewing their policies or signing up for new ones under Obamacare.

“We spoke with the insurers and the 249k # is actually 73k (at most) if you don’t count those that were given the option of renewing through 2014,” wrote Udall’s deputy chief of staff Joe Britton on Nov. 15, in an email to the Division of Insurance.

“We need to move on this ASAP,” he wrote in another message, “or we’ll be forced to challenge the 249k number ourselves. It is wildly off or at least very misleading and reporters keep repeating it.”

But the insurance division stood its ground, saying that even if some were given the option of renewing, it doesn’t change the fact that they received cancellation notices for their old policies.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” wrote Jo Donlin, the agency’s director of external affairs in an email to her staff reported by Complete Colorado. “Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.”

At times, the dispute seems to have turned heated, with Donlin writing that after she sent an email to Udall’s staff explaining the division’s numbers, the Democratic senator’s deputy chief of staff called to press his case.

“Following my email, I received a very hostile phone call from Udall’s deputy chief of staff,” she wrote. “[Insurance Commissioner] Marguerite [Salazar] is on the phone with [Udall's] chief of staff right now. Happy Friday!”

Republicans pounced on the revelations, saying that Udall was attempting to “bully” the insurance division.

“This deserves a full investigation by federal and state authorities along with the Senate Ethics Committee,” said former GOP chairman Dick Wadhams, on Fox31. “What did Senator Udall know and when did he know it when his staff tried to force Colorado insurance officials to falsify their numbers to suit his political purposes?”

But Udall spokesman Mike Saccone told the station that Udall’s office was right to complain.

“We reached out to the Dept. of Insurance because 250,000 cancellations was radically different than the number we were hearing from the insurance industry,” he said.

“In fact, 96 percent of Coloradans who received ‘cancellation letters’ were offered an opportunity to renew their current coverage,” he continued. “To the average Coloradan, that is not a cancellation.”

Saccone did not immediately reply to an email from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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