Former Baucus Staffer Responsible for Gag Order

Jonathan Blum, an acting director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is apparently responsible for issuing a gag order against Humana, Inc., on Monday evening. Blum is a former staffer to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee currently in markup of their own chopped salad version of the health care bill.

Baucus has taken credit in the media for demanding CMS issue the unprecedented order. CMS also changed their mailing guidelines to include a ban on any Medicare Advantage (MA) provider sending information or placing information on their websites regarding the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office findings that their Medicare Advantage plans would be gutted if the Democrats pass their government-run healthcare schemes.

From a CMS press release today:

“We are concerned that the materials Humana sent to our beneficiaries may violate Medicare rules by appearing to contain Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit information, which must be submitted to CMS for review” said Jonathan Blum, acting director of CMS’ Center for Drug and Health Plan Choices. “We also are asking that no other plan sponsors are mailing similar materials while we investigate whether a potential violation has occurred.”

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee with oversight responsibility for CMS, informed CMS that, in fact, the largest MA provider, the AARP, has for months been mailing their customers with pro-Obamacare information, running television ads and has pro-Obamacare information still posted on their website.

Now it turns out that Blum, the “acting director” who apparently made the call to place the gag order only on those entities who oppose the drastic cuts to Medicare, is a former member of Sen. Baucus’ staff.

From the CMS senior leadership appointments announcement:

“Blum most recently served on the professional staff of the Senate Finance Committee as an advisor to Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and other Finance Committee members on prescription drug and Medicare Advantage policies during the development of the Medicare Modernization Act.”

This raises a few serious questions. Why did Baucus and Blum leave the AARP out of their gag order? Is there a quid pro quo involved? Is Baucus now running the CMS and its policies through a former staffer who takes orders directly from the senator?

Paging the Senate Ethics Committee.