Nuclear Option on Health Care Effort Heads to Budget Committee
House Democrats pulled the trigger last week on the nuclear option for H.R. 3200, the government takeover of health care, setting into motion the process that would allow passage of the bill with 51 votes in the Senate.
The next step in the process is certification by the Budget Committee that should take place early this week. HUMAN EVENTS broke the story last week and will report the scheduled vote in the Budget Committee as soon as information becomes available. A list of members of the committee and their contact information is found here on their website.
CMS Gag Order Lifted
Late Friday afternoon, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) notified Congress they had lifted the unconstitutional gag order barring Medicare Advantage (MA) and prescription drug insurers from communicating with their customers about the deep cuts in Medicare proposed in every one of the Obamacare bills. Insurers have been under the gag order since September 21.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, has led Republican committee efforts in the House to demand hearings, documentation, investigations and a reversal of the improper gag order.
“I am relieved that the Administration is no longer misusing its regulatory authority to prohibit plans from communicating to seniors factual information about the Medicare cuts in health care reform,” Camp said. “However, I remain concerned that CMS overstepped in issuing its gag order as a result of undue political pressure to penalize anyone who dare speak out against the Democrats’ health care bill. We still need to get the answers to how and why this gag order was issued.”
According to Camp, CMS has not responded to a demand for documents relevant to the decision-making process, but Republicans on the committee have also requested a report from the Inspector General of Health and Human Services concerning any undue pressures and the role politics may have played in the issuance of the gag order.
Jonathan Blum, an acting director at CMS, claimed responsibility in the media for the issuance of the gag order. Blum is a former Senate staffer who once worked for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus is responsible for passing out of committee last week the phantom health care bill that wasn’t and still isn’t yet written.
The events in question began in late September when, at the behest of Baucus, his former staffer at CMS launched an investigation into Humana, Inc., for merely informing their customers who purchase MA and prescription drug benefit plans that these plans could be greatly impacted by current proposals for health care reform.
Blum claimed in a press release that Humana may have violated agency guidelines and that CMS had begun an investigation. CMS then used this “investigation” as a basis to issue the gag order restricting all MA insurers from communications with their customers regarding the deep cuts to Medicare proposed in Democrats’ pending health care legislation.
Notably absent from restriction was the AARP, the largest provider of Medicare-related insurance, reporting related earnings of over $2 billion dollars over the past two years. The AARP has for months been mailing their customers with pro-Obamacare information, running television ads and has pro-Obamacare information posted on their website.
The new CMS guidance restates and affirms that insurers offering MA and prescription drug plans have the right to communicate with their customers regarding pending legislation as long as they do not use federal monies to fund the communications. CMS has also dropped its challenge to the accuracy of the statement that, under Democrats’ proposed health care “reform” legislation, “millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare advantage health plans so valuable.”
FY’09 Had a $1.4 Trillion Deficit
As the official deficit numbers were confirmed by the Obama administration on Friday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky talked about the staggering rise in deficit spending.
“As the deficit grew under this administration, we all thought it would set off alarm bells, and that a $1.4 trillion deficit would set off the sirens,” McConnell said. “Instead, Democrats in Washington are now calling for adding yet another quarter-trillion dollars to the deficit on health care spending alone. Congress simply can’t continue acting like a teenager on a spending spree with his parent’s credit card and no regard to who pays the bill.”
“We need to listen to the American people: No more spending money we don’t have,” McConnell added.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, reminded all Americans that Obama’s full budget plan includes over $9 trillion in new deficits even without the government takeover of health care.
“This once unfathomable budget deficit should take the breath away from every American,” Price said. “We are already beginning to feel the negative effects of this borrowing, yet it will be our children and grandchildren who will long be indebted to the recklessness of this administration. The most frightening part of this budget outlook is that trillion dollar deficits stand to become the norm under this administration. The President’s budget plan puts us on a trajectory that our next balanced budget may literally be generations away.
“Contrary to the sense that Americans get from free-spending Democrats in Congress, these deficits carry enormous consequences,” Price continued. “The dollar is already plummeting, crippling tax increases sit on the horizon, and rising interest rates threaten our long-term productivity. The federal government is operating as an enormous pyramid scheme that threatens to tumble over if we cannot get federal spending under control. Unfortunately, the President has tossed aside leadership and is pressing forward with the biggest expansion of government in history.”
“The American people are demanding responsibility in Washington,” Price concluded. “They understand that the solution to overspending is not more spending. The Republican Study Committee, as with every other challenge we face, has laid out a better solution. Our budget reaches balance in ten years, and we continue to advocate for a return to fiscal sanity. Governance means making tough choices and setting priorities. This is what every American family does each day, and they are ready for those in charge in Washington to do the same.”
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