More Dem Censorship on Healthcare Debate

George Orwell call your office. Again.

Was it only two months ago that Cong. John Carter (R-Tx) and a few other conservatives were protesting the Democrats’ censorship of their constituent mailings?

Yes, it was. When Judge Carter tried to describe Obamacare as “government-run healthcare” the House Franking Commission told him he couldn’t use the term in a constituent mailing that would be mailed for free as are most constituent mailings. Not only could he not use those words, he couldn’t use the words “Democratic Party.”

Now, the Democratic Party (i.e., the Obama administration) wants to censor the mailings sent out by private insurance companies warning of benefit cuts in the Obamacare (i.e., government-run healthcare “reform” plan.)

The Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a gag order late Monday aimed at Humana, Inc., a private insurer offering Medicare Advantage (MA) coverage to seniors. Humana is also now under investigation for sending a letter to some of its 1.5 million MA customers warning them of the drastic cuts to the MA program in the current health care “reform” legislation.

CMS seeks to stop Humana from imparting vital information to their customers about the $500 billion worth of cuts in Medicare included in the Democrat health care bills.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, fired off a letter to CMS asking the acting director to rescind the gag order and, “Provide, in writing, by September 28, 2009, an explanation of whether similar enforcement activities were taken against other MA plan and its affiliates, including AARP, and if not why no such action was taken.”

According to reports, CMS yesterday claimed it “is not yet aware of other companies that have sent direct political mailings to enrollees.” Yet Camp’s letter to the CMS acting director specifically pointed out the AARP has long been mailing pro-Obamacare information to their customers. AARP, the co-branding partner with UnitedHealth, Inc., hawks Medigap insurance plans to seniors.

USA Today reported three weeks ago of AARP’s full campaign of political efforts in support of Obamacare that included a post-Labor Day direct-mail blast of 8 million letters to their customers.

Other AARP efforts in support of Obamacare have included town halls and tele-town halls, some in support of Democrat members of Congress. They’ve run multimillion-dollar ad campaigns on television and on the web supporting Obamacare. Plans are underway for a second round of ads to run this fall.

Did CMS intentionally ignore mailings and ad campaigns by largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans (AARP-UnitedHealth) and target a company actually opposed to the President’s Medicare cuts?

I spoke with Rep. Camp last night about the Democrats’ latest efforts to silence opposition to the government takeover of health care.

“If you look at the letter that Humana sent out, it is factual,” Camp said. “Even CBO says that Medicare beneficiaries’ benefits could be negatively impacted and their costs could increase. CBO says that under H.R. 3200.”

The Humana letter stated: “Leading health reform proposals being considered in Washington, D.C., this summer include billions in Medicare Advantage funding cuts, as well as spending reductions to original Medicare and Medicaid. While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose any of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable.”

Not exactly earth-shattering. But Democrats didn’t like the facts getting around like that and CMA issued the gag order.

“Clearly this is intimidation,” Camp said. “This is an attempt to intimidate a truthful debate on this issue and an honest debate. While AARP has been advocating for the President’s plan that’s okay, but here when a group is factually pointing out how the plan could hurt their beneficiary, then they need to have a gag order. That is political. That is the government intimidating public discourse on a public issue.”

CMS later issued a thinly-veiled threat of investigation to other providers in the form of new mailing guidelines, stating they should “… immediately discontinue any mailings to Medicare beneficiaries and remove any related materials from their website that is directed to beneficiaries regarding current health care reform legislation. CMS has recently learned an MA organization was contacting enrollees alleging that current health care reform legislation could hurt seniors and disabled individuals who could lose important benefits and services as a result of the legislation.”

The non-partisan CBO found that millions of Americans would lose their Medicare Advantage coverage of the Democrat government takeover of health care was enacted. Under these Orwellian CMS “mailing guidelines,” these companies are not allowed to mail the CBO Medicare findings to their customers. The facts might confuse them.

“Here we have a government agency improperly, selectively and inappropriately using its regulatory powers to intimidate and silence a group of people who simply want to express legitimate facts about the Medicare cuts being advocated by the President and the Congressional Democrats,” Camp said. “They’re being selective about that power. They’re applying it to Humana who has factual concerns about the bill but not about AARP who has endorsed the bill — maybe not officially endorsed it but is saying really positive things about the bill and not communicating that they support the President’s changes to Medicare.”

2008, AARP received a whopping $652.7 million in direct “royalties and fees” from selling products such as Medigap insurance. In 2007, the AARP generated $497.6 million in similar revenue.

“Ninety percent of seniors have Medigap policies,” Camp said. “That means that Medicare doesn’t cover all of the services that they would like so they get supplemental coverage. AARP is very much in the business of selling those supplemental policies.”

There is little doubt that the AARP/UnitedHealth, Inc. consortium would be “approved” to hawk their wares in the Democrat, government-run insurance exchange. And they’d only have government approved “competition.”

The AARP’s got quite the lineup of financial conflicts of interest for a seniors’ “advocacy” group.


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