American Elephants


Strongarm, Threaten and Bully, Passing Healthcare Reform the Democrats’ Way. by The Elephant's Child
September 22, 2009, 2:02 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Law, The Constitution | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month Humana sent a one-page letter to its customers who were enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plan, which offers extra benefits to Medicare beneficiaries.  Humana explained that because of spending cuts proposed by Democrats (Taking $500 Billion out of Medicare) “millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable.” They also suggested their customers  contact their congressional representatives. Not exactly a startling political communication.

Well.  You have probably noticed that strongarm tactics are definitely on the menu when it comes to the Democrats’ Health Care plans.  Senator Baucus, whose very own health care plan has just been released, not only took offense, he went to war.  He complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge, which on Friday ordered Humana to cease and desist.  And opened an investigation to see if the company mailer violated laws about how insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“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.

What business it is of government to tell private companies just what they may communicate to their customers remains a mystery. The Journal adds: “Mr Baucus and the Obama Administration are out to make [Humana] an object lesson to the rest of the business class, and that means they won’t stop until Humana cries uncle or is ruined.”

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