Intimidate or elucidate?

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Today’s Sentinel editorial – “Intimidate or elucidate” – discredits itself and disserves its readership by, first, positing a false equivalency between Democratic Senator Udall’s staff inquiries into numbers reported by the Colorado Division of Insurance (“CDI”) and the actions of New Jersey’s Republican Governor Christie’s staff in “Bridgegate”; and, second, by uncritically regurgitating Josh Penry’s partisan poppycock in Friday’s Sentinel – “As Obamacare crumbles, Sen. Udall resorts to bullying and distortion”.

As more accurately reported by the AP – “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” – betraying the underlying partisan motivation.  Contrary to Penry’s, FoxNoise’s, the GOP’s – and now the Sentinel’s – gross distortion, there is no evidence that Senator Udall was personally involved at all, much less “bullied” and/or “pressured” anyone, or “distorted” anything. 

Rather, last November, Senator Udall may have instructed his staff to question the CDI’s use of the term “affected” to describe the number of 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 cited 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.

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