Udall’s “Cancellation” Kerfluffle: Old GOP Talking Points Die Hard

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Colorado Republicans are attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for “bullying” the state’s Department of Insurance to revise its estimate that nearly 250,000 Coloradans had their health insurance policies cancelled as a result of Obamacare…

The emails, first published by the conservative news website “Complete Colorado,” center around the department’s estimate that 249,000 Coloradans saw their policies cancelled as a result of the new health care law.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” [Division of Insurance director of external affairs Jo] Donlin wrote in the Nov. 14 email to Vincent Plymell, a spokesman for the Dept. of Insurance. “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.”

…The following day, Nov. 15, a Denver Post story appeared that highlighted Udall’s contention that most of the people categorized as having had their plans cancelled had actually been offered renewals.

“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,” Udall spokesman Mike Saccone told FOX31 Denver on Thursday.

We took note of the Denver Post story in question back in mid-November, in which Sen. Mark Udall and staff laid out their contention that most of the "cancellations" of health insurance in Colorado really weren't. In almost all cases, participants were indeed allowed to renew their policies for another year under state regulations–and this was the case before President Barack Obama made the announcement that similar renewals would be allowed nationwide. Also, as other reports we cited at the time demonstrated, thousands of Coloradans were sent cancellation notices in error from their insurers that were later confusingly retracted. What Sen. Udall was trying to do was cut through the confusion to determine what real outcomes were shaping up to be.

But it is precisely that sense of confusion in this debate that Republicans are seeking to exploit. For some months, Republicans have promoted a running tally of policy "cancellations" that has "grown" to some five million–which sounds pretty bad. That's where Republicans would like to freeze the issue in the public consciousness, but that's not the whole story. In Colorado, our disproportionate number of "cancellations" relative to population–which is what attracted Udall's attention to begin with–were almost all offered a renewal of their existing plan in 2014 in the same "cancellation" letter. Once the administration allowed what Colorado was already doing nationwide, many more "cancellations" were eliminated. Most importantly, millions have found affordable coverage on the new insurance exchanges, which if you haven't been paying attention recently, are working now.

In short, Republicans frame the present situation as one where their dubious "five million cancellations" not only were really cancelled–which in most cases both Colorado and nationally were not–but are still without insurance today. All manner of misleading comparisons are being made, like exchange signups versus their number for "cancellation notices," with the express purpose of making it seem as though the Affordable Care Act has left these people without insurance. For all of the above reasons and more, that's just BS. Udall is absolutely right to push back.

Dick Wadhams.

Dick Wadhams.

With that said, Republicans might perhaps have used this story to some short-term messaging advantage. But true to form, wild overreaction exposes their underlying worry that this key talking point is coming apart.

Former GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams, who is supporting and advising one of Udall’s possible opponents, state Rep. Amy Stephens, told FOX31 Denver that this “scandal” is worse than this week’s revelations that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s staff created a traffic jam simply to pay back a Democratic official who didn’t support the governor’s reelection bid.

“This deserves a full investigation by federal and state authorities along with the Senate Ethics Committee,” Wadhams said. “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?”

Got that? Udall's staff trying to get to the bottom of this complex and heavily propagandized issue is "worse" than the scandal over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's staff causing traffic jams in Democratic Fort Lee! We suppose you have to have some sympathy for Dick Wadhams, trying to press the attack against Udall over health care on behalf of the GOP primary candidate who gave the world "Amycare." But the comparison is sufficiently ridiculous to deprive Wadhams of any credibility.

At some point, hopefully soon, reality will win the day. And we're pretty sure it will validate Sen. Udall's math.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    This looks ripe for some Elliot Fladen damage control.

  2. Davie says:

    When I saw this story in the Post this morning, I was shaking my head.  Jo Donlin's insistence on only telling half-truths (or maybe 4% truths, since 237,000 had renewal offers in the same letter) on this matter was stunningly disingenuous (and butt-headed).  But then to read the Wadham quote in the same article trying to whitewash Christie's contemptible actions versus Udall's attempt to cut through the BS was unbelievable.  Wadham's got his manure spreader working overtime.

    Naturally, the Post reporters seemed happy to give the GOP talking points the "yeah, that's probably enough of the story, so my job is done here" treatment.

    • BlueCat says:

      I too was struck by Wadhams ridiculous attempt at creating equivalency but then who cares what Wadhams thinks about anything anymore? He's been fork in it done as a voice to be taken seriously or a force to be reckoned wth in Colorado and/or other state's or national politics for quite some time. 

      • JeffcoBlue says:

        Well, he is Amy Stephens' advisor. Perhaps the same can be said of Amy Stephens?

      • Davie says:

        Sadly, as long as Wadham's is a Go-To source for DP reporters, he'll have at least some credibility.  Until of course the Post realizes that Wadham's lack of credibility further drives down the Post's too.

        The Post's demographics are headed in the same direction as the GOP, so both sinking ships' fates may be tied together regardless of what they do.

        Probably explains why the Post is trying to replace "High Times" as the Toker's choice for news.

        • BlueCat says:

          In a recent survey 53% couldn't identify top rated network newscaster Brian Williams. Not just that they don't watch him or don't watch much news in general. They have no clue who this big time media star is. Can you imagine the tiny percent that have the slightest idea what gets written in a print newspaper like the Denver post?  We need to get out in the real world more. 

          • Davie says:

            I stopped watching most TV news about 20 years ago.  But I've been a cover-to-cover newspaper reader for my entire life. I get 100% of my news electronically, which has actually greatly expanded my sources.

            As David might say, people's news sources (esp. the young) are in transition.  Most won't read past the first few paragraphs regardless of the source.

            That was my gripe with the Post's coverage of the Udall controversy.  The GOP point of view was reflected in the headline and the first half of the story.  Only if you read to the end did you get more of the full story with at least a minor attempt at balance.  Unlikely 90% of the readers got that far, and the headline was extremely misleading.

      • horseshit GOP front group says:

        Calling out distorted bullshit numbers deserves a full investigation by federal and state authorities.  Senator Udall has been caught red handed again doing his job.  This is an outrage.

  3. davebarnes says:

    Udall and his people made a mistake.
    They should have countered the cancellation data with their own instead of trying to change the definition of cancelled.

    • Davie says:

      Donlin of the Dept of Insurance should not have stopped at just characterizing the issue as just "cancelled".  That's as informative as announcing "All traffic signals turn red, stopping all traffic"

  4. DawnPatrol says:

    I think DIck Wadhams, in addition to consistently living up to his name, looks very much like that lumpish kid who used to play "Jake" on "Two and a Half Men."

    Somebody pull Dick's finger….

  5. JBJK16 says:

    Nicely done D's.  The real story is many many people did get cancellation notices.  But as long as we're chasing squirrels together.

    • Gray in Mountains says:

      But, if 96% include a renewal offer then they are not a straight up cancellation and Udall is right as rain

    • BlueCat says:

      And many already have discovered its' the best thing that ever happened  to them (see Ft Worth Texas newspaper's apology. Don't have link handy but easy to google, big boy) because they found out that they didn't, in fact, have anything like the coverage they thought they had, The rock bottom price was nice but only if they never actually needed insurance. Then they would have discovered that they may as well have been flushing their money down the toilet or saving it to make slightly (very) bigger dent in their bills than the tiny amount their insurance would cover. And once again… I expect crickets, not squirrels.  

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