Baucus Believes Politicians Alone Should Control Health-Reform Debate

Boy, did they get that wrong! In fact, the reason health insurers dole out cash to Senator Baucus and scramble for a seat at his table is that he’s forbidden them from discussing health reform in any other venue. Humana, Inc. learned this when they mailed a one-page document on health reform to members of its Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. MA allows beneficiaries to choose private insurers instead of the government’s traditional Medicare buraucracy to manage their Medicare benefits. Democrats would like to roll back MA choices in a money-grab to patch the holes in traditional Medicare. Unsurprisingly, Humana’s mailer (which I have not seen) expressed caution over such a “reform.”

Senator Baucus demanded that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launch an investigation, on the grounds that Humana had broken a law. CMS does require that communications about actual MA plans that private insurers are marketing to individuals be approved by CMS bureaucrats, but I’ve never heard the government assert censorship over private insurers’ communications about public policy.

Well, there you have it: The government can summon the health-care industry to justify its existence in Beltway hearings, but the health-care industry does not have permission to communicate its positions to the public.

In a sane world, Humana, Inc. would send lawyers to Senator Baucus’s office demanding that he stop harassing the company and assert its First Amendment rights; the CEO would express his outrage via interviews on the TV and radio; and Humana would follow up with a health-reform mailer to its customers every week.

No such luck in America today: Humana has announced that it is “co-operating” with the CMS investigation.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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