Democrat Uses Agency to Threaten Insurance Co.

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Feb 11, 2007
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This is still yet another example of Democrats using a federal agency for their own political agenda.

Baucus Bludgeons Humana WSJ Sept. 22, 2009


Political intimidation has always been part of the current Congress's health-care strategy: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu" is tattooed on every lobbyist and industry rep in Washington. But Max Baucus's latest bullying tactics are hard to believe by even these standards, as the Senate Finance Chairman has sicced federal regulators on the insurer Humana Inc. for daring to criticize one part of his health bill.

Earlier this month, Humana sent a one-page letter to its customers enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans, which offer private options to Medicare beneficiaries. Humana noted that, because of spending cuts proposed by Democrats, "millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable." The Kentucky-based company also urged its customers to contact their Representatives. Pretty tame stuff, as these things go.


Mr. Baucus took it as a declaration of war. He complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal health-care agency, which on Friday duly ordered Humana to cease and desist. CMS claimed the mailer was "misleading and confusing" and told the company it has opened an official probe as to whether the mailer violated laws about how the insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers, as well as other federal statutes.

"Please be advised that we take this matter very seriously and, based upon the findings our investigation, will pursue compliance and enforcement actions," CMS concluded, ominously. Humana could be fined or booted from Medicare Advantage altogether.
"It is wholly inappropriate for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject—particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health-care reform," Mr. Baucus said in a statement yesterday, playing the role of Congressional censor. "The health-care reform bill we released last week strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program—and seniors need to know that."

In fact, the Baucus draft legislation slashes $123 billion over the next decade from Medicare Advantage, which Democrats hate despite the fact that almost one-fourth of beneficiaries have chosen it over traditional fee-for-service Medicare. One reason seniors like it is because private insurers focus on quality and preventive care and try to manage benefits, as opposed to simply paying bills.

A new study from America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, finds that seniors on Advantage in California spent 30% fewer days in hospitals over fee-for-service patients, based on federal data. Democrats say that insurers are "overpaid," but the cuts—as Humana correctly noted—mean that seniors may lose this coverage.

Mr. Baucus doesn't want seniors to be educated about these facts, and obviously he's willing to use his enormous power to punish any private company that doesn't affirm his, well, creative version of reality. Nearly half of Humana's yearly revenue comes from Medicare Advantage, and the insurer says that it is complying in full with the CMS investigation. Yesterday, the agency also barred all Advantage insurers from providing similar information to their beneficiaries.

This episode neatly shows how all U.S. health care will operate if Mr. Baucus's bill becomes law. For months Humana and the wider insurance lobby have been among ObamaCare's most prominent cheerleaders, with the exception of Advantage cuts and the public option—even though they'll be converted into government contractors in the business of fulfilling whatever Congress happens to dictate. The insurers are willing to give up their remaining business autonomy because Democrats intend to mandate that all consumers buy their products—but as with Advantage now, that means government will control the funds upon which the insurers' survival depends. They'll have no choice but to genuflect, or else the political class will pull out the tire irons.

Humana merely made the mistake of trying to tell seniors the truth about what will happen to their coverage, and now CEO Michael McCallister had better hire a good team of lawyers. Mr. Baucus and the Obama Administration are out to make him an object lesson to the rest of the business class, and that means they won't stop until Humana cries uncle or is ruined.
 

Cimarron

It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living.
Jun 28, 2007
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Be ready for more of the same. So much for free speech and useful debate huh?
 
May 8, 2009
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Be ready for more of the same. So much for free speech and useful debate huh?
Lord knows you can't have some Health Organization going out and informing the clients they serve about adverse affects of new health legislation now can we. After all, an informed populace is a dangerous populace........if you want to keep control.

I hope the powers that be in Louisville and at the state level, as well as the Senators and Reps are taking some kind of action in response to this blantant overstepping of Federal Government censoring and admonishment of Humana.
 
Feb 11, 2007
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Lord knows you can't have some Health Organization going out and informing the clients they serve about adverse affects of new health legislation now can we. After all, an informed populace is a dangerous populace........if you want to keep control.

I hope the powers that be in Louisville and at the state level, as well as the Senators and Reps are taking some kind of action in response to this blantant overstepping of Federal Government censoring and admonishment of Humana.
The problem with this is that this federal agency has tremendous power and authority. They can shut down any private health insurance program if they judge that it does not meet federal standards as it relates to Medicare and Medicaid Health Policies. In this case the Democrat Senator did not like what Humana was saying about the Democrats Health Bill. Therefore he used the federal agency to threaten Humana to shut up or else.
 
May 8, 2009
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The problem with this is that this federal agency has tremendous power and authority. They can shut down any private health insurance program if they judge that it does not meet federal standards as it relates to Medicare and Medicaid Health Policies. In this case the Democrat Senator did not like what Humana was saying about the Democrats Health Bill. Therefore he used the federal agency to threaten Humana to shut up or else.
Yes. I agree. But I don't know what Humana's response is other than to take it. Humana means alot to Louisville and KY. Even southern Indiana and beyond. The powers that be in Louisville and KY need to stand up on behalf of Humana. Guess I'm not sure how, but you would think the KY federal delegation would at least stand up for their own and tell Baucas to back the hell off or change the legislation.
 
Jun 23, 2005
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Edmond
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I wonder how long it will take for our 3rd branch of government to hear some case that is caused by the heavy handed (and borderline illegal) tactics of the current administration?

Another thought is that the Dems are certainly providing much ammo for the Republicans to use during the mid term elections next year.
 

State

Russian Bot
A/V Subscriber
Mar 15, 2007
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How bout a big 'Go fuck yourself' from Humana and they keep on mailing? Isn't there such a thing as the First Amendment? Doesn't a corporation have about the same legal rights as an individual? My memory is clouded in my rage, but aren't there Supreme Court cases saying the govt can't prevent speech? The NYTs gets away with blatantly printing state secrets (a clear violation of the law) but speaking against health care will get you fined? WTF!:mad:
 

steross

Bookface/Instagran legend
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Mar 31, 2004
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CMS claimed the mailer was "misleading and confusing" and told the company it has opened an official probe as to whether the mailer violated laws about how the insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers, as well as other federal statutes.
Without knowing the details of these laws that Humana agreed to by becoming a government contractor, I am not going to voice an opinion. It is not a free speech issue if you agree in a contract not to voice that particular speech.

When the medicare advantage contractors can give all of this great care for the same as medicare rates, then I will be all for it. Being that I (taxpayer) am paying more for the seniors that chose these plans than if they had not, I say they can go away. If the senior likes it so much, let them make up the difference.
 
Nov 1, 2004
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To the comments regarding our SC and corporate freedom of speech matters ... Citizens United case being heard this term ... dealing w/that very issue in the context of political campaign finance. As for Humana and that "cease/desist" order ... stock market's not too worried about Humana's survival ... 52 week high/low 48/19 ... shares closed yesterday at about 40.
 
Aug 26, 2006
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I love how the minority leader got in front of them and called it a gag order and said they have the right to speak as they will because of the 1st Amendment. If only more of the people in Washington could use that kind of common sense.