The state of Colorado can produce no information about a “neutral and objective panel” of investigators that was said to have cleared Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s staff of bullying insurance officials over Obamacare numbers, leading to speculation that the panel never existed and an investigation never took place.
Two media outlets — the Denver Post and Colorado Observer — requested details on the panel through the state’s open records act, asking for information about who served on the panel and what was discussed.
But the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) didn’t produce any information related to the panel or the investigation it supposedly conducted. DORA said on Jan. 14 that the panel “interviewed a number of Division of Insurance staff, collected and reviewed e-mails and other correspondence between the [division] and Sen. Udall’s staff” in concluding that there was no coercion or intimidation.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo called for the resignation of Barbara Kelley, the executive director of DORA who was appointed to her job by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“The Hickenlooper administration’s pattern of deception on this scandal is extremely troubling,” Tancredo said in a press release. “It suggests that the governor’s primary focus throughout this scandal has always been the political interest of protecting a fellow liberal Democrat.”
On Jan. 9, the website Complete Colorado reported that Udall’s staff tried to pressure the State Division of Insurance to downplay the number of Coloradans who had their health insurance policies cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act. The division had reported 250,000 cancelations, but Udall’s staff thought it should be lower because most of those people were given the opportunity to renew their policies.
“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong,” insurance staffer Jo Donlin wrote in an email to her colleagues. “They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers.”
Republicans called for an investigation into Udall’s actions, which later led to Kelley’s claim that an investigation by her staff cleared the senator of any wrongdoing.
Now it seems that investigation never happened.
“For clarification purposes,” Kelley wrote to the Post, “the department first conducted a fact-finding review, focused exclusively on DORA [including the insurance division] staff and processes, actions and perceptions during and after the e-mail exchanges in early to mid-November, with Sen. Udall’s staff. Having found no evidence of any intimidation or coercion … there was no need to proceed with any further investigation.”
Hickenlooper’s office referred the Post’s inquiries to Kelley. Udall’s office told the newspaper it had no role in the review.
“The public deserves accountability and they deserve answers, and that starts with removing Barbara Kelley from her position,” Tancredo said in his press release, “and allowing a bipartisan legislative committee open access to all of the records related to Sen. Udall’s efforts to influence regulators to conceal the very real and negative consequences Obamacare is having on Colorado. That is the only way to ensure a thorough, and truly ‘neutral and objective’ investigation of what really happened.”
“This political cover-up is unacceptable,” he said.
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