DENVER — The state insurance regulator who refused to let Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s staff “trash” her health care policy-cancellation figures won’t be a state insurance regulator for much longer.
Jo Donlin is slated to leave her job Feb. 28 as the Division of Insurance’s director of external affairs for a position as a health-care adviser with the Division of Professions and Occupations, according to a memo obtained Thursday by the Denver Post’s Kurtis Lee.
No explanation was given for the job shuffle, but state Rep. Amy Stephens (R-Monument), who is seeking the Republican Senate nomination, issued a statement Thursday linking the transfer to Donlin’s clash with Udall’s office.
“It is disappointing that Jo Donlin is leaving her job at the Department of Insurance as a result of shameful attempts by the office of Sen. Mark Udall to bully her into changing Obamacare insurance cancellation data,” said Stephens.
“Ms. Donlin should be applauded for refusing to capitulate to the politically motivated demands made by Sen. Udall’s staff. State employees should not be pressured by the office of a United States Senator,” said Stephens.
Emails written by Donlin and obtained by Complete Colorado through an open-records request in January are at the center of an ongoing uproar over attempts by Udall’s office to pressure state regulators to change the high cancellation figures.
“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” said Donlin in a Nov. 14 email. “Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They (Udall’s staff) want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details.”
The next day, Donlin wrote in an email that she received a “very hostile phone call from Sen. Udall’s deputy chief of staff.”
Udall spokesman James Owens has said that the office wanted the cancellation number, now at more than 335,000, to reflect that 96 percent of Coloradans hit with cancellation notices were offered new policies.
The flap intensified after Department of Regulatory Affairs executive director Barbara Kelley said Udall had been cleared of pressuring state regulators by a “neutral and objective panel” that turned out to consist of three Hickenlooper administration Democrats.
Stephens, who had requested the investigation, called the panel a “clearly biased group.”
Udall is seeking reelection in November amid criticism over his support for Obamacare. The Colorado Springs conservative group I Am Created Equal recently launched the website Udall Lied because of his 2009 statement that “you’ll be able to keep your doctor or your plan” under Obamacare.
Division of Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar praised Donlin in the memo, saying that she had done “an extraordinary job of developing external partnerships and relationships on behalf of the DOI.”
Donlin has not commented publicly on the controversy.