The Obama White House -- through its HHS Department -- has declared what can and cannot be said about its plans.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 New York Times ran a Reuters report that gave more details:
Who in the Senate was behind this? According to Reuters, Montana Democrat Max Baucus -- the Finance Committee Chair who's attempting to get the plan through the Senate. He urged the adminstration to issue the gag order:Republicans, health insurers and others blasted the U.S. Medicare agency on Tuesday for what they called political interference over companies that want to directly contact customers about the impact of pending healthcare reform legislation.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled as well as privately run Medicare alternatives, on Monday said it was investigating a letter Humana Inc sent enrollees about efforts to overhaul the nation's healthcare system.
Humana's letter, sent in an envelope citing important plan information, told customers that Democrats' bills could hurt "millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable," according to CMS.
The agency also warned other insurers against sending potentially misleading health reform mailings to customers.
Critics pointed to the direct intervention of Sen. Max Baucus, who urged CMS to get involved and said he welcomed the investigation of what he called "scare tactics" by Humana. CMS announced its Humana probe before Baucus's committee began work on his health reform bill on Tuesday.Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had had enough yesterday and took to the Senate floor to blast Baucus' (though he does not name him as per Senate decorum) and the Democrats' move: