Less Than 27,000 Coloradans Received Health Care Cancellation Notices

How many Coloradans REALLY received insurance cancellation notices?

How many Coloradans REALLY received insurance cancellation notices?

Colorado Republicans, particularly U.S. Senate candidate Amy Stephens, have been working hard over the last month to damage the credibility of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in regards to the Affordable Care Act. In late 2013, Udall's office began questioning the accuracy of a number put out by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) that indicated some 250,000 Coloradans received notices that their health insurance policies would be cancelled in 2014. As we wrote last week, this "scandal" is little more than an attempt by Republicans to make a ridiculous number (250,000) stick in the minds of reporters and other media outlets:

But in this case, not only is their "scandal" weak, its unraveling is actually a very bad thing for the GOP. The facts here are very simple: Of the roughly 250,000 policyholders sent "cancellation letters" in Colorado, 96% of them were actually offered renewals for 2014. It's critical to understand that Colorado's implementation of the Affordable Care Act always allowed these plans to be renewed, and this was essentially what President Barack Obama subsequently allowed nationwide to compensate for the troubled rollout of the exchange.

Bottom line: if 250,000 Coloradans had actually lost coverage on January 1, we're pretty sure the outrage would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But it didn't happen. In Colorado, many affected by "cancellation notices" no doubt simply renewed their plans like the letter said, and then wondered what the hubbub was. Thousands of "cancellation notices" were flat-out sent in error by sloppy insurers like low-rated Humana. And most importantly, the new insurance exchange has signed up tens of thousands of people.

In a story two days ago from the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee, the 250,000 number was again used in a story about Udall's office and the Affordable Care Act:

Kelley's announcement comes after her office did not provide information on a panel last week that cleared Udall staffers of accusations they bullied division of insurance staffers to change a November report noting 250,000 Coloradans would have individual policies canceled due to the Affordable Care Act. DORA oversees the division of insurance. In an internal e-mail, a division director, Jo Donlin, said a Udall staffer was unjustly trashing the number. Donlin has never spoken about the matter publicly.

It's more than a little ridiculous that the Post continues to use the 250,000 number — particularly when you consider that the same newspaper already ran a story refuting those numbers. Here's former Post reporter Michael Booth investigating the number back in November:

Many of the cancellation notices, however, also contain language allowing customers to renew their existing policies.

One consumer advocacy group said that while the impact on the small number facing an absolute cancellation is real, "there's been a lot of hype and not a lot of drilling down into the facts."

"It's been a small and vocal minority, exacerbated by support from those who oppose Obamacare," said Dede de Percin, director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

So what number should reporters be using? The Post and its editors/copy editors seem confused; Kurtis Lee recently cited the number as a vague "thousands" in a blog post on "The Spot," but it's possible to get much more specific than that. In letters sent by DORA to Rep. Stephens and Congressman Cory Gardner, the state says the number of cancellation notices sent to Coloradans was 335,500 as of Jan. 13; of those, 308,840 were offered options for early renewals within the same letter. In other words, the number of people in Colorado who actually received cancellation notices with no opportunity for renewal is less than 27,000.

We included a handy graphic above as a reminder for anyone paying attention to this non-scandal.

69 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ModeratusModeratus says:

    If it's so cut and dried, why don't the Democrats at Hickenlooper's Department of Insurance agree with you?

    • Republican 36 says:

      I have health insurance through my employer and guess what?  Last Fall, Blue Cross Blue Shield wrote to my company and said they would no longer offer the same policy as we had in 2013 ("canceled") but they would renew our policy under slightly different terms, including a revised deductable. We accepted the renewal offer and company employees remain insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield. We go through this process every year as do most employers and people who purchase individual policies; and this has been going on for decades before the Affordable Healthcare Act was signed into law. 

      Under your definition of cancellation and the actual facts that have existed in the health insurance world for decades, tens of millions of people have had their health insurance "cancelled" year after year for a very long time. A far more accurate term would be to say their health insurance has been "modified" on an annual basis. If a company or individual doesn't agree with the modification, they can purchase insurance from another company, but the great thing about the AHA is the fact insurance is now available to virtually everyone which wasn't true under the old system.

      The so called cancellations is much to do about nothing. 


      • DavieDavie says:

        But won't that hurt all those bankruptcy lawyers who would otherwise handle the newly insurance-less get through their medically-induced financial distress?

        Besides, who doesn't enjoy taking the kids to the ER for (eventually) free medical care?  Certainly, us taxpayers don't give a hoot, right?

        but the great thing about the AHA is the fact insurance is now available to virtually everyone which wasn't true under the old system. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/53799/less-than-27000-coloradans-received-health-care-cancellation-notices#comment-537049

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        So if your renewal policy covers new things and costs 50% more that is not a cancellation?  There is a form that was sent out to hundreds of thousands of folks in Colorado.  The name on the form is "Notice of Cancellation".  To say only 27,000 people had their policies cancelled is a lie.

        Did some of those people find replacement coverage?  I am sure some did.  How many?  Nobody knows.  What I do know is all 335,000 Coloradoans recieved notice that those policies were terminated, not less than 27,000.

        So why is ColoradoPols propogating that lie?


        • Republican 36 says:

          You're not recognizing reality because it undermines your notion that cancellation in the insurance world means you've lost your insurance. It may but in most cases it doesn't mean that at all. As I outlined above, my company's insurance is canceled every year but Blue Cross Blue Shield, in reality, offers a modified policy which replaces the previous one.

          The same process occurs every year with your automobile insurance policy. The renewal notice comes in the mail and included are the modified terms and conditions of the policy. In essence your previous policy has been cancelled because it isn't offered under those terms any longer.

          The same occurs every year with your homeowners insurance policy.

          Where is your evidence that the 308,000 policy holders who were offered "renewals" (remember that was the word used in the letters and by the Insurance Commissioner) are now paying 50% more in premiums than last year? Please cite the evidence to back up your assertion. 

          308,000 of the 335,000 received, as you say, a "Notice of Cancellation," but they also received in the same letter a "Notice of Renewal." It happens every year.

          This is much to do about nothing. 

          • bullshit!bullshit! says:

            This talking point is very important to Republicans. I don't expect them to drop it until no one on this earth believes them and tells them so. Republicans don't care about lying, they only care if their lies hurt them. So people have to get mad and say "fuck you, stop lying."

      • JBJK16 says:

        "…cancellations is much to do about nothing. "

        Broadly, this story as being told IS nothing.

        But 27,000 is not nothing.

        what happened to these 27,000 is something. What happened to them?

        • Diogenesdemar says:

          Less broadly, and more correctly, "What happened to them" is a question, not a story.

          The question should be answered, of course.  All that is known is that this number was not offered renewals from their previous company.  

          If the answer is those companys are no longer in business — that may, or may not, also be a story.  Every year some insurers go out of business and/or cease doing business in particualr states for numerous reasons — so it ever was.  Did they go out of business in Colorado because they didn't want to compete against the companys on the Colorado exchange?  Answering some of those questions, may or may not, yield "a story".

          How many of those 27,000 people got new, or replacement, insurance from some other company — via the Colorado exchange, or not — undoboubtedly some, but how many??  Another question that when properly investigated and answered, may or may not yield "a story."

          And, lastly, how many of the 27,000 did not ger any new, or replacement, insurnace from some other company — and why?   Did some pass away in 2013?  Did some move from Colorado to another state in 2013?  Did some join the Republican party, because "no health plan is better than a socialist health care plan"?  On and on and on . . .

          Like BC said noted below, and you may have overlooked, is that there is more protection against being cancelled, or being denied because of a pre-existing condition, today — under the ACA — than there ever has been before!! (Now, that's a story!!)

          So — in short, there are lot's of questions — but not yet even a single "story" until some of those questions are looked into and answered.

          Even shorter:

           "question" = "question"

          "story" = "story"


          "question" =/= "story"



  2. Andrew Carnegie says:

    The correct number is the 335,000 number.  If the policy they were offered to renew was the same as the previous policy they would not have been sent a cancellation notice.  If an insurance company sends out an alternative policy that is not identical to the earlier policy, except as to the term or time covered it is not really a renewal.  Sending out an option to buy something similar, covering different risks at a higher price, is not a renewal except in the eyes of someone with something to hide.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      If most people did, in fact get replacement coverage with which they were pleased then your figures don't represent people who feel screwed. And that's the important thing. If most people find that everything is going to be OK for them with the new system, that they really have better more secure coverage at a price they can afford, then your "correct number" isn't going to do you much good.

      And here's a clue for you. Insurance companies discontinue types of policies and replace them with slightly different ones all the time. Anyone who is self employed and buys insurance in the private market knows this. What is offered changes, rates change, deductibles change. Your doctor may suddenly no longer be participating in the plan. The idea that before this everyone got to keep the cheap plan they liked and it stayed the same? That was never true.

      It was stupid for Obama to promise that everybody could keep any plan they liked mainly because that was never the case in the first place. It's just as stupid to claim that Obamacare is now taking away something that never was.

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        So the title should have been "Less than 27,000 Coloradoans feel screwed by Udall"?.  I think you are going to find that in the short term there is a net loss of people covered by insurance due to cancellations and the higher cost to get replacement coverage.  That is certainly going to be the case for the 30 year old making $50K.  The law limits the difference in premium that can be charged based on age so you people are paying for their "rich" parents.  Not bad for the parents.  Sucks for the kids.

        • Andrew Carnegie says:

          "young" people.

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          I suppose you hope this will help one of your clown car candidates beat Udall. I mean that's what this is really about, right? It won't. And once again, in case you haven't noticed, people have always lost policies. There has never been any guaranteed protection against cancellation. There's more protection against losing or being denied under ACA than there was before. How's that for a title?

          • Andrew Carnegie says:

            That title would be honest, the editor's one is not.  But if you can't afford to buy the policy in the first place guaranteeing that it will not be cancelled is not a big prize.

  3. Andrew Carnegie says:

    The title to be kind, is less than honest.  Over 330,000 recevied cancellation notices.  Of those, some received some type of alternative remedy which they may or may not have accepted.  To say those that recieved the notice, did not, is not truthful.


  4. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    This is correct, and I've been talking to people who know. In Colorado, renewals for 2014 were always permitted for most policyholders on the individual market. Desperate Republican scare tactics are the only thing keeping this bullshit story alive.

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      I was considering pointing that out, Dave, but I procrastinated, so you beat me to it.

      The decreasing focus on good grammar, particularly in the MSM, is a troubling sign for us old speech majors. Pols is usually pretty good about it, but they slip up once in a while.


  5. elucidator says:

    Our policy was cancelled by Kaiser. We were told we could "replace" it with a new policy for $60 more per month and a deductable that jumped from $2000 to $6000. That was our only option, so we took it. No matter what the verbiage, it was a windfall for the insurance company, that was permitted by the Dept of Insurance, who could have helped consumers like us, but didn't.

    • Every year your premiums go up and coverage changes – and it's almost always a windfall for the insurance companies or the medical companies they hide their profits behind. The ACA didn't prevent companies from doing that. This has happened to every insurance policy I ever had from my employers, too – and to everyone else in this country.

      The $6000 deductable is Kaiser's choice – it's your "skin in the game" as Republicans say. You could certainly have looked on the exchange for something with a different mix.

    • ajb says:

      Ya know, my health insurance has been increasing in cost every year since I can't remember. That must be Obama's fault, too.

  6. ModeratusModeratus says:

    I'll say this: Colorado Pols is a master of spin. I mean that as a compliment.

    Unfortunately for you, everyone has heard the larger number, and you can't make it go away. Those people did receive cancellation notices.

    • I have to admit – I received a cancellation notice this year from my employer's health care insurer. Of course, I also have new coverage that does pretty much the same thing, from a different insurer.

      It's useful as a Republican talking point, because no-one knows the exact details of each and every renewal, nor the person's ultimate decision for insurance this year. But as pointed out, it really does happen (and has happened) every year to people with insurance. This is no more of new feature of the ACA than the mail ballot in recall problem was a creation of the 2013 election reform bill – both predate the bills Republicans are trying to attack.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        I searched the exchange, didn't find a better policy, and …wait for it…kept the policy I had. Who woulda thunk?

      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        Not only that but insurers could cut you or fail to renew anytime they felt like it and often did just that to people with private insurance who had the nerve to get seriously ill.

        In the private market standard procedure, for as long as we've been buying our own insurance,  has been to offer a  lower than average price to get new business, then raise it the next year, at which time we'd increase the deductible to avoid too much of an increase, and a year or two after that raise it radically., even for healthy people who barely used it That's why we used an independent broker to find us whichever company was offering a lower rate at the time and would switch every few years, always paying more but avoiding the huge increase. 

        This worked fine until you had any little preexisting condition on your file. I was once turned down for a cheaper plan not because I had suffered any serious illness or required any serious procedure or surgery or acquired any serious chronic condition but simply because I had used a prescription antihistamine the previous year. The private market could be as picky as they pleased.

        So any one trying to sell the idea that if not for ACA everybody buying their own insurance instead of getting it through an employer would get to keep the plan they liked at the same price from year to year is either completely ignorant of how the private insurance market has been working all along or are attempting the usual misdirection. 

        Too bad Obama stupidly handed the right the opportunity to make this an issue at all by promising something anyone with more sense than a piece of toast should have known could not be delivered. Obviously plans that didn't meet new requirements would be discontinued. Obviously private insurers could continue to alter and discontinue plans. I admit he has only himself to blame for handing this to the right on a silver platter. Of course the right is trying to take advantage but once things settle down and the overwhelming majority realize that they have better, more secure coverage than before ACA, the value of this talking point will fade away.

        The whole thing could have been avoided if Obama hadn't given away the store in the early negotiations by refusing to even allow single payer a voice at the table making the public option the most extreme and therefore unattainable position. An affordable quality public option in competition with the private options would have allowed Obama to promise a basic quality package as an alternative and that promise could have been kept.


    • Diogenesdemar says:

      " . . . you can't make it go away . . . "

      Republican talking points: the toe-fungus of modern communication

    • roccoprahn says:

      The problem with your latest attempt at……..well I actually don't really know what your goal is..unless it's just griping ad nauseum about anything Democratic……is that when you say "everyone has heard the larger number" you're assuming no one will ask "where'd the number come from"?.

      Curtis Lee never gave a source. No one I've asked here has given a source. The source is made up, and somehow it went from 250,000 to 335,000. And nobody that has any skin in the game believes a cancellation of a "catastrophe policy" is a cancellation of an insurance policy. 

      Hearing numbers coming out of thin air and being lazy enough to believe them is a conservative weakness. It's not something to be proud of. It means you're too lazy to vet something, and predisposed to be a whiner, a sniveller,  and a crackpot.

      Long story short, you expose yourself as a typical low information, pissed off conservative goober, with no answers, just complaints.

      But I'm not telling you anything you didn't allready know. 

  7. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    As annoying as the rightie spin may be, the most depressing thing about it is…. you really can't hand them something like this and expect them not to use it. Sorry. It was really stupid to promise that anyone who likes their policy can keep it. That has never been true. Ever. There was never any reason to assume that it would suddenly become true. Period.

    Obama and the Dems committed an unforced error and the opposing team benefits. That's the way the game is played. I don't think it's going to be enough for the other team to win but we're fools if we expect them to decline whatever advantage we hand them out of the goodness of their stony little hearts.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      Thanks for some honesty.  Very little of that is found here.

      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        You haven't been around here very long. You'll find lots of it. Lot's of us "lefties' disagreeing with each other, criticizing Dem pols as well as Rs and you will find no unified Borg like repetition of talking points generated by a 'lefty" spin machine. That kind of thing comes pretty exclusively from our rightie participants and not even from all of them all of the time. That always seems to come as a big surprise to righties used to critical thinking free rightie sites. 

  8. vaquero del espacio says:

    So, Mark Udall's vote only caused 26,999 people to lose their health insurance.  Got it.  Thanks for clearing that up, Pols.

    "If you have an insurance policy you like…you'll be able to keep that insurance policy."




    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      He voted for reforms that help everyone whether you know they do or not. He voted so that your insurance carrier can't drop you when you get sick. He voted so that, if you lose the insurance your job provides along with your job and you are diabetic you will be able to get insurance again.

      He voted so that if you have a baby born with serious congenital defects your baby can't be denied insurance for preexisting condition.

      He voted so that policies have to meet certain standards and you can't be tricked into buying something calling itself insurance which really doesn't offer enough coverage to do you any good when you nee , leaving the rest of us to foot the bill after you lose everything. 

      He voted so that young adults starting out in life, some with burdened with large college loans, can be covered on their parent'd policies to age 26 and start contributing to our economy sooner. And those are just the benefits to you that immediately pop to mind.  Got it? 

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        BC  He voted that way because he was asked to vote that way by his party.  He votes with his party 95-97% of the time.  He votes that way because he believes it will help him.

         If you wanted to say he voted that way because of the potential benefits, then it is equally valid to say he voted that way because of the potential detriments.  

        He voted that way because he wanted to hurt younger people by raising their premiums.  He voted that way because he wanted people to lose their doctors and health insurance policies.  Those are just some of the detriments that come to mind.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          He voted that way because he wanted to hurt younger people by raising their premiums.  He voted that way because he wanted people to lose their doctors and health insurance policies.

          These comments are precisely why credibility eludes you so completely.

          • Diogenesdemar says:

            On the other hand, just by virtue of having started here so recently, this one's got a hell of a lot more credibility than Moderatus.

            At least he's been forthwith enough to cite where he's getting his patently false and mistaken bullshit from —- so that eveyone and god can see why his arguments are invalid.  Moddy just MSUs all over the place.

            Yes, AC's destroying any chance for credibility here rapidly, but he's still got several montha and boatloads of ingorance to spew before he reaches Moderatus level. 

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          What Duke said.

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          You probably think that Rs who vote with their party at  that rate do so because they believe in their party's core principles. So do I and I think those core principles are mainly reprehensible.  No surprise a Dem mainly supports Dem party principles. Duh

          I'm not among those who believe in bipartisanship as a good in itself.  Going along with horrible policy for the sake of bipartisanship is still going along with horrible policy. I'd rather crush your side, elect majorities to both houses and get better policy.  Unfortunately, short of that no real bipartisan compromise on major issues is possible due to your party's scorch earth policy. It's your your party that is dedicated to refusing to cooperate on anything strictly for the sake of denying Obama and Dems any accomplishments for which they could take any credit. 

          That's been the plan, well documented as articulated by your leadership and recorded on video, since before Obama was even inaugurated. Dems can't be bipartisan all by themselves. Your side's complaints that Obama and the Dem leadership refuse to work with them is a completely transparent joke coming from the party that has gone completely crazy using filibuster for the first time in our history as a routine tactic instead of a rare and special one and everyone with more sense than a piece of toast knows it.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      If by "their health insurance," you mean a specific, particular policy that was no longer legal after the new law went into effect, and that that particular, specific former issuing company decided not to offer within the new legal requirements, then . . . 

      If you mean that you believe that 26,999 people don't have any health insurance whatsoever today because of Mark Udall's one vote, then the first thing you really should be concerned about clearing up is your head.

  9. vaquero del espacio says:

    So, Udall wasn't lying when he said, "If you like it, you can keep it."?

    I'll wait for him to clear that up when he's campaigning with Obama…or not.



  10. Republican 36 says:

    The bottom line for my family is the AHA works well, very well. My oldest son has a chronic disease that requires medication. Without medication, he will die. Without insurance his medication alone costs over $700.00 per month, plus the normal doctor visists to monitor his condition. He's over twenty-six years old so he isn't covered by my health insurance. Before the AHA, because of his "pre-existing condition," he couldn't buy health insurance. No insurance company would offer it to him.

    With medication, he works full time and can afford the necessities of life.

    Then came President Obama and his Affordable Healthcare Act and saved my son's life. He now has health insurance and dental insurance under the AHA at a rational monthly premium which he pays.

    Those opposed to the AHA go on all day about "socialism" and "big government" but one of the most important aspects in everyone's life is their health. Without it, life is painful and depressing. With it, life is a joy to live. President Obama has helped millions of people, just like my son, and millions of others who are healthy now but couldn't afford health insurance to have the peace of mind that if any health issues arise, they will be taken care of by the best doctors and medical staff in the world.

    We should all be thankful for President Obama and the members of Congress who voted for the AHA, and the political leaders in those states who established state exchanges for their coruarge and foresight. While the naysayers bayed at the moon about ideology, they grasped a central fact – health is key to living the good life, the key to a successful career and underpins every other aspect of life. God bless them for passing this law. 

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