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Thuggish Behavior Raises Lawmakers’ Ire

In another item on the list of demands to follow up on in January, three GOP lawmakers want answers for a threatening letter sent by an Obama cabinet secretary in “an effort to intimidate those who reveal the negative consequences” of Obamacare.
 
Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), ranking member of the Health Subcommittee, and Michael Burgess (R-Texas), ranking member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for documentation related to recent coercive statements she made in a letter to a health insurance industry executive regarding Obamacare-induced premium increases.

On September 7, 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) would see rate increases resulting from Obamacare, stating “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul.” 

Two days later, Mme. Secretary sent a letter to Karen Ignagni, President of AHIP, threatening (among other things) “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

The lawmakers pointed out the administration and Democrats in Congress previously engaged in thuggish behavior to silence insurance companies imparting information about the widespread negative impact of Obamacare to the health industry.

From the letter

As you may know, this is not the first attempt to silence critics of the new health care law.  Soon after its passage, several companies disclosed cost increases on their balance sheets as required by the law’s changes to retiree drug plans.  The Democratic Majority on the Committee on Energy and Commerce immediately questioned these cost increases and demanded documents as proof.  When those documents proved not only that the disclosures were required by law and valid, but also that the companies were each debating whether it even made sense to  maintain their health plans in the future, the investigation was quietly shut down.  

The Republican lawmakers seek backup documentation for her claims since Sebelius has not testified before the committee charged with HHS oversight since the implementation of Obamacare over six months ago.

The letter in its entirety:

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

On September 7, 2010, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul.”  We are, of course, all concerned about the effects of the law on health care costs [Affordable Care Act].  But we find your response to the announcement surprising and potentially inappropriate and write to request documentation proving your assertions.

Two days after The Wall Street Journal article, you sent a letter to Karen Ignagni, President of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), warning that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”  You also warned all insurers that you “want AHIP’s members to be put on notice:  the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections.”  We fear that your letter is an effort to intimidate those who reveal the negative consequences of the law and an attempt to block actuarially sound premium increases, which would put all consumers at risk.

As you may know, this is not the first attempt to silence critics of the new health care law.  Soon after its passage, several companies disclosed cost increases on their balance sheets as required by the law’s changes to retiree drug plans.  The Democratic Majority on the Committee on Energy and Commerce immediately questioned these cost increases and demanded documents as proof.  When those documents proved not only that the disclosures were required by law and valid, but also that the companies were each debating whether it even made sense to  maintain their health plans in the future, the investigation was quietly shut down.  

Your letter also concedes that reasonable experts conclude that the law would cause increased premiums.  Indeed, your letter states that only “some industry and academic experts (emphasis added)” believe that premium increases would be minimal. Given that some experts expect increased premiums, it is inappropriate for you to assert that those announced premium increases are “misinformation” or “unjustified” absent clear proof of wrongdoing.

Accordingly, please provide all written material you possess showing that the premium increases are unjustified or not actuarially sound.   Furthermore, given the long-established authority of state insurance commissioners to remove unscrupulous insurers, reject actuarially unfounded increases, and protect consumers, please provide all documents or evidence in your possession showing that state insurance commissioners are unable or unwilling to protect consumers.

Finally, we also request that you provide a briefing to us as soon as possible.  On September 10, 2010, we requested that Chairman Waxman invite you to testify to discuss your statement to ABC News Radio on August 30, 2010, that you had a “lot of reeducation to do” about  the health care law.  As you have not appeared before this Committee since the bill was signed into law six months ago, a briefing would at least allow us to discuss changes being made to every American’s health care as soon as possible.

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Connie Hair writes a weekly column for HUMAN EVENTS. She is a former speechwriter for Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

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