Senator Mitch McConnell is blasting President Obama’s administration over a “gag order” that prevents health insurers from telling their customers that the proposed health reform legislation could hurt seniors and jeopardize their Medicare benefits.
The Senate Minority Leader calls it an “outrage” and an attempt to “stifle free speech.” “Shut up the government says. Don’t communicate with your customers. Be quiet and get in line.”
You can watch Senator Mitch McConnell’s entire speech below.
Here are some related articles:
McConnell Blasts Government Over ‘Gag Order’ on Private Health Care Provider
The federal government resorted to bullying tactics when it ordered an investigation of Humana -- one of the country's biggest private insurers -- for its decision to send customers a letter alerting them about pending health reform legislation, a leading Republican charged Wednesday.
U.S. health officials launched the probe after the Louisville-based company mailed a letter to patients enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans -- private options that replace standard Medicare -- warning that President Obama's health overhaul could eliminate important benefits of the program.
Humana said in its letter that if Medicare Advantage funding gets cut, "millions of seniors and disabled individuals ... could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable."
Read more on Fox News
Insurers Criticize Administration 'Gag Order'
The federal government has ordered health insurers to stop telling Medicare beneficiaries that proposed health reform legislation could hurt seniors and jeopardize their benefits.
The government might take enforcement action against insurers that have tried to mobilize opposition to the legislation by sending their enrollees "misleading and confusing" messages, a senior official of the Department of Health and Human Services said in a memo Monday.
The mailings in question urge enrollees to contact their congressional representatives and protest the legislation, the memo said.
Read more on The Washington Post
Medicare Hike Would Pinch Seniors
Low inflation and the twists of Medicare law are creating a political nightmare for Congress: millions of elderly left with higher Part B premiums and no annual cost-of-living increase from Social Security.
The White House, already besieged by Afghanistan and health care reform, has sat back thus far, not wanting to get into the fight. But Tuesday saw a behind-the-scenes scramble as House Democrats readied a stop-gap spending bill for the new fiscal year beginning Oct.1.
Annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients have been a way of life for decades, but with the bad economy, the consumer price index for 2009 has fallen into negative territory, all but ruling out any benefit increase next year.
At the same time, Part B premiums, which cover the cost of physician services, will grow, triggering a set of provisions in Medicare law that protect about three-quarters of the elderly but then ask the remainder to take a double whammy.
Read more on Politico
CBO: Obamacare Cuts Your Medicare Benefits
President Barack Obama has promised Americans on multiple occasions that his health care plan would not cut benefits for Medicare enrollees. For example, on August 11th Obama promised: “I just want to be clear, again: Seniors who are listening here, this does not affect your benefits. This is not money going to you to pay for your benefits; this is money that is subsidizing folks who don’t need it.”
We pointed out at the time that Obama’s statement is simply not true. Yesterday, Associated Press reported:
The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.
The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.
Read more on The Heritage Foundation
GOP Rushes to Defend Insurance Companies from Dem Attack
Veering right into Glenn Beck territory, House Republicans darkly hinted Wednesday that the White House was behind the nefarious plot to muzzle insurance companies.
House Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.), is now demanding to know whether anyone from the White House was involved in the decision to tell companies to stop using taxpayer-subsidized communication to terrify seniors into opposing health reform.
"I have never seen anything like this and I question if politics was the deciding factor," said Camp.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) doesn't think it smells right, either. "[G]angster government is at it again," she wrote in The Hill.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor again Wednesday morning and tried to tie this story into a larger narrative: "Over the past several months we've seen a pattern of intimidation by supporters of the administration's health care proposal, including efforts to demonize serious-minded critics at town hall meetings across the country. Now we're seeing something even worse. The full power of the federal government being brought to bear on businesses by the very people writing the legislation.... Americans are already skeptical about the administration's plan. They should be even more skeptical now."
Read more on the Huffington Post
Humana Investigation: Take a Look for Yourself
By now you all know that Humana is under investigation for misleading old people into believing that their Medicare benefits will be cut.
Like the story says, Medicare “providers are only allowed to communicate with plan members about benefits they have now, not about possible changes to benefits. They are also not allowed to use plan-related communications to lobby for policies or legislation.” Them’s the rules, kids.
So take a look at one of the mailers for yourself:
Read more on Page One
ABC News On McConnell Condemning Dem's Gag Order of Humana
ABC World News Tonight has a segment on McConnell's statement on the Senate floor, in which he called out Sen. Max Baucus and the Obama administration for placing a gag order on Humana.
It is rare to see McConnell so angry, and he has good right. As ABC notes, by silencing Humana from communicating with its subscribers about pending legislation, the Democrats have likely violated the first amendment.
ABC also points out that the substance of the Humana mailing at issue is true: current members of Medicare Advantage would see their benefits cut under the Baucus bill; that's one of the ways in which Democrats will attempt to pay for Obamacare.
Read more on Elephants in the Bluegrass
You can check the numbers for yourself with the Congessional Budget Office. The CBO is a non-partisan fact checker.
Should government have the power to censor communication between private companies and its customers? I would like to know your thoughts on this debate. Drop me an email or leave a comment on my blog. I’ll post your responses next week.
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