As Obamacare crumbles, Sen. Udall resorts to bullying and distortion

I guess no one should be surprised that U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s top aides spent considerable energy pressuring Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Division of Insurance to cook the books on statistics showing the disastrous consequences of Obamacare. With Obamacare collapsing like a house of cards, distortion is about the last tactic that Obamacare supporters have to call on.

Earlier this week, the investigative website got its hands on emails in which Udall’s senior staff are seen pushing Hickenlooper appointees to reduce estimates of the number of Coloradans forced out of their health insurance.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong,” the head of the Division of Insurance wrote in in one email. “They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people.”

As the email notes, the Division of Insurance estimated last year that 249,000 Coloradans received insurance cancellation notices as a result of Obamacare. Team Udall, faced with the specter of running for re-election on the record of having cast the deciding vote for a health law that forced those 249,000 cancellations in this state alone, was none too happy with the Hickenlooper administration. And so the team pressured the division to “revise” its estimates.

For those tied to the law, this is how grim it has become. And it is only getting worse.

Never mind for a moment what The Washington Post called the “lie of the year” — the promise made by President Barack Obama, Udall and local defenders of O-care that you’ll be able to keep your health insurance if you want to. Three equally significant pillars of the new law have crumbled in the last month.

First, the president was forced to waive the individual mandate for the millions of Americans, including those 249,000 Coloradans, whose health insurance was canceled as a result of the law.

Recall the unwavering proclamations from the law’s champions — promises made in press conferences, debates and arguments before the Supreme Court — that health reform simply would not work without a mandate that every person buy in to the health insurance system.

Faced now with the inconvenient reality that millions of Americans are being unwittingly pushed out of a health care system that, pre-Obamacare, they were voluntarily part of, the president reversed course on the individual mandate for some people for this year.

Second, Obama was forced to waive the provisions of the law that effectively outlawed high-deductible plans. These bare-bones plans have been derided by the manufacturers of Obamacare as inadequate, immoral, even evil.

Faced again with an inconvenient truth — in this case, that high-deductible plans are by far the best and, in many cases, the only affordable health insurance for millions of people — the president decided to let a few hundred thousand Americans keep their high-deductible plans, after all, at least for the coming year.

A third pillar of O-care crumbled recently with the release of a Harvard study showing that the wholesale expansion of Medicaid induced by the Affordable Care Act will likely not reduce expensive visits to the emergency room.

Recall again the promises of Obamacare backers, that increasing Medicaid coverage will save the system millions in cost shifts and back-door premium increases, because it will reduce the number of emergency visits by those who now have no choice but to go to the ER for health care.

Au contraire, mon frère.

According to a Washington Post story on the study, “As the health care law expands Medicaid to cover millions more Americans, a new Harvard University study finds that enrollment in public program significantly increases enrollees’ use of emergency departments ... With financial barriers removed, Medicaid patients see their primary care doctor more — and also go to the emergency department at an increased frequency.”

Anyone who has read the sorry stories of socialized medicine in Canada and Europe is familiar with this concept. Academics call it over-utilization. When a good or a service is free, people are strongly inclined to use that good or service more frequently because, well, why not?

For health care, when people aren’t required to cover a copay or any share of their premium, as is generally the case with Medicaid, there is no reason not to go to the doctor or ER every time the sniffles show up. It’s free, so, why not?

Speaking of “Why not?” — that may well have been Udall’s rationalization for attempting to bully the Division of Insurance to cook its books. With Obamacare collapsing like the ill-thought house of cards that it is, bullying is about all its defenders have got left.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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Josh Penry’s partisan poppycock in today’s Sentinel – “As Obamacare crumbles, Sen. Udall resorts to bullying and distortion” – should more aptly be titled “As access to Affordable Health Care expands, Teapugnicans resort to fear-mongering and distortion”.

As more accurately reported in the accompanying and more revealingly titled AP article – “Udall pressured state on health care figures, GOP says” – this just another “tempest in a teapot” being ginned-up by frustrated Republicans who have lost the policy debate over the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

The key phrase is “GOP says” – a clue to the underlying partisan motivation.  Contrary to Penry’s, FoxNoise’s, and the GOP’s bluster, there is apparently no evidence that Senator Udall was personally involved at all – much less “bullied” or “pressured” anyone, or “distorted” anything. 

Rather, last November, Senator Udall may have instructed his staff to question the Colorado Division of Insurance’s use of the term “affected” to describe the 249,199 Coloradans who “received” cancellation notices in 2013.  Whether (if at all) and/or how those recipients were “affected” is a separate question not answered by that number.

Thus, 200,000,000 already-insured Americans were “affected” by the ACA – and none are now threatened by arbitrary cancellations when coverage is most needed.

Moreover, the ACA did not “force” the issuance of 249,000 cancellation letters.  Rather, insurers induced many to abandon policies “grandfathered” in 2010, and then marketed low-cost non-compliant policies through 2013 (without adequately informing consumers) – thereby “forcing” themselves to issue cancellation letters.

Finally, the “Harvard Study” Penry cites covered only the first 18 months after Oregon expanded Medicaid coverage in 2008.  Initially, emergency room visits by Medicaid patients increased – as the previously uninsured entered the health care system for the first time.  Thereafter, as in Massachusetts too, emergency room visits fell – because those now-covered Medicaid patients had been referred to primary care providers.

Obamacare is crumbling?  Why wasn’t I informed?  I just got a really good plan through RMHP at a really good rate.

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