Colorado conservatives are apoplectic that the state’s flailing Obamacare exchange awarded its director with a hefty bonus and raise — several are calling for an investigation of the exchange’s finances.
Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner called the salary package — a $14,000 bonus and a 2.5 percent cost of living raise for CEO Patty Fontneau — “absolutely unacceptable” at a time when Connect for Health Colorado is asking for a fee on all policy holders statewide to make up an estimated $13 million shortfall in revenue for the coming years.
Republican state Rep. Owen Hill told the Colorado Observer that he was “floored” by the news.
“They’re so tight on money that they’re talking about doing a $13 million unconstitutional tax on health-insurance plans,” he told the news site. “This [fee] is going to hit every Coloradan, whether you buy through the exchange or not. So they’re taxing Coloradans $13 million because they’re in such dire financial straits, yet they’re giving the CEO of their broken system another $14,000 a year?”
The Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity started an online petition calling for an “objective, full, and forthright accounting of how our state’s ObamaCare exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, is using our taxpayer dollars and carrying out its duties.”
Earlier this year, Democrats killed a bill that would have permitted an expanded state audit of the exchange’s financing, with committee members saying they were impressed with its “transparency.”
They were also likely swayed by Fontneau’s testimony that Connect for Health Colorado had already been through a federal audit. But documents obtained and first reported by the Colorado Observer show the “audits” were really forms for self-reporting finances to federal agencies.
“CEO Patty Fontneau’s payout comes in the wake of recent news reports that didn’t reflect well on her honesty and management acumen, raising questions about whether there’s a disconnect between pay and performance at Connect for Health Colorado,” said Dustin Zvonek, AFP’s state director, in a press release. “Now we learn that Ms. Fontneau thinks all Coloradans should pay a tax to prop up her struggling organization.”
Hill echoed the demands of the petition and called on Gov. John Hickenlooper to order a comprehensive investigation of Connect for Health Colorado’s use of taxpayer money. The exchange has received $177 million in federal grants and must be self-sustainable by next year.
“If Hickenlooper was a real leader, he’d say, ‘Clearly this is not working, we need to have a bottom-up look, turn over every stone, audit and have full transparency for what’s really going on here,’” Hill told the Observer. “What do they have to hide by denying this kind of transparency and this kind of audit?”
Others think simply auditing the exchange doesn’t go far enough.
Fontneau “should resign or be fired, not rewarded,” said Jonathan Lockwood, a Republican strategist, in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Honestly, Coloradans need to get outraged and demand better. They deserve better.”
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