Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2009

HUMANA PULLS GOP LEADERSHIP'S STRINGS.... During yesterday's Senate Finance Committee debate on health care reform, a frustrated Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) noted that the private insurance industry is "running certain people" in the Senate.

It's demonstrably true. Consider this week's controversy surrounding Humana, one of the nation's leading private insurers. The company opposes policymakers finding cost savings though reducing unnecessary spending in Medicare Advantage -- it would undermine their profits -- so it began lobbying its customers with misleading propaganda. Because Humana receives a whole lot of public funds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructed Humana to stop its taxpayer-subsidized misinformation campaign.

Republicans threw a fit on Tuesday, and ratcheted things up late yesterday.

The rhetorical war over an alleged attempt by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the Obama administration to "muzzle" insurance companies critical of their health care plan intensified Thursday, with Republicans accusing Democrats of violating federal guidelines and threatening to filibuster a host of executive branch nominations. [...]

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, top Senate Republicans demanded that HHS immediately lift the "gag order" and warned that they would filibuster any HHS nominees until she does so.

According to Roll Call, the administration has five pending HHS nominees awaiting Senate approval, and five more vacancies awaiting nominations. The entire Senate Republican leadership team wants to block any and all consideration of these nominees until Humana is allowed to start using tax dollars to mislead seniors again.

"This is pretty simple," a senior Democratic Senate aide said. "All the GOP spinning in the world can't hide the fact that Republicans continue to protect big insurance companies who mislead seniors. This latest attempt is bizarre and untrue pushback -- CMS has always said providers can communicate with their beneficiaries as long as it's done in an accurate and truthful way. The letter from Humana clearly wasn't -- it was both false and misleading. CMS did the right thing protecting seniors from these scare tactics."

GOP lawmakers generally avoid acting like they've been bought and paid for, which makes this week's tantrum in support of Humana propaganda so foolish. We're talking about an insurer, which has seen its annual profits soar nine-fold this decade, and which recently had to settle fraud and racketeering cases. McConnell & Co. are going to the wall to fight for its ability to engage in publicly-funded lying?

As of last night, the Obama administration said it's ignoring the Republican leadership's demands. Here's hoping officials stick to their guns on this.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Comments

If past practice is any guide, Sibelius will be on Chris Wallace's show pretty soon apologizing.

Posted by: dweb on September 25, 2009 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

God I'm sick of these jerks!! Obama and Reid just need to impose enough discipline to get a cloture vote, then pass the best bill they can.

I still think the GOP's intransigence may actually result in a better bill being passed, compared to any compromise that might have happened if the Republicans had ever had any intention of compromising. Public option now!

Posted by: slader on September 25, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

What is remarkable about this story? Of course the Republicans support publicly funded lying. They also support privately funded lying, non-profit lying, payday loan lying, hobby lying, and lying for barter. They are liars, their entire ideology is a lie, and lying is among their primary tactics. They love lying and always lie.

Republican dishonesty is one of the basic facts of American political life. Perhaps one day liberals will stop being surprised that Republicans are sleazebags.

Posted by: Mark on September 25, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

"...and threatening to filibuster a host of executive branch nominations."

When that's your default position on everything, the threat doesn't really have much teeth. Esp. since it technically doesn't matter any more.

Posted by: Marko on September 25, 2009 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

It is obvious to all republicans that we must work diligently to reduce our massive federal deficit. We must, of course, avoid impacting corporate profits and we must, of course, avoid raising taxes for our wealthy who are the real job creators in our country. For this discussion, we will accept John McCain's definition of the wealthy as those making more than $5 million a year.

Within this framework, it is obviously the correct thing for our republican politicians to protect the profits of Humana and Wellpoint and other altruistic corporations operating in the health care industry. Within this framework, we also must acknowledge that all defense spending that goes to corporate America must be protected, regardless of whether the projects increase our national defense or are just boondoggles.

If Obama and the democrat party want the cooperation of republicans, they must seek decreased spending and increased revenues in ways that are acceptable.

A short list of such venues includes:
- Ending stimulus spending
- Decrease welfare spending
- Increase the minimum age for leeches to draw social security
- Increase the individual social security and medicare taxes
- Decrease the business taxes for social security and medicare
- Eliminate federal spending on unemployment benefits
- Increase efficiency by eliminating all regulation of financial institutions and insurance companies
- Decrease income taxes on the job creators of our country
- Increase income taxes on those who are not job creators

With appropriate compromise from Obama and the democrat party, republicans will willingly work to return our country to full prosperity.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on September 25, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Like Republicans wouldn't have threatened to filibuster those nominees anyway. It's the only thing in government they know how to do.

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 25, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

When is the Democratic Leadertship in the Senate going to force the Republicans to make good and their threats.

I think it would do a world of good for the Taxpaying American public to actually witness day after day. wave after wave of bloviating Republicans - sleeping on cots, unshaven, unable to pee - riveting reality teevee.

Keith and Rachel could to the play by play reminding everyone hourly why the Republicans had decided the bring the business of the Senate to a screeching (literally) halt. (that bad old Socialist is being mean to the multi-nationals again)

Posted by: bcinaz on September 25, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

For all of you on this web site who continuously whine about republican lies...

As a republican who recognizes that I can tell the truth and it won't make any difference...

We lie.
We know that we lie.
We benefit from lying.
We pay no penalties for lying.
We will continue to lie.

And our corporate media will continue their roles as echo chambers and amplifiers of our lies!

We win - you lose. Get used to it!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on September 25, 2009 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

RepublicanPointOfView's post is amusing-partly because there is so much truth behind the sarcasm.

Who knew (when the Dems were in the minority a few short years ago) that those out of power could wield so much power?

Putting secret holds on nominees, threatening filibusters, offing up thousands of delaying amendments- What is the benefit of being the MAJORITY any more?

Posted by: DAY on September 25, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

We lie.
We know that we lie.

We know that you know that we lie.
We know that you know that we know that you know that we lie
We know...

Posted by: Marko on September 25, 2009 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

"We're talking about an insurer, which has seen its annual profits soar nine-fold this decade, and which recently had to settle fraud and racketeering cases. McConnell & Co. are going to the wall to fight for its ability to engage in publicly-funded lying?"

The answer to that question would be "yes."

Posted by: Jose Padilla on September 25, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

GOP lawmakers generally avoid acting like they've been bought and paid for

Since when?

McConnell & Co. are going to the wall to fight for its ability to engage in publicly-funded lying?

Why not? They indulge in it all the time.

Posted by: Gregory on September 25, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

What is remarkable about this story? Of course the Republicans support publicly funded lying. They also support privately funded lying, non-profit lying, payday loan lying, hobby lying, and lying for barter. They are liars, their entire ideology is a lie, and lying is among their primary tactics. They love lying and always lie.

Republican dishonesty is one of the basic facts of American political life. Perhaps one day liberals will stop being surprised that Republicans are sleazebags.
Posted by: Mark on September 25, 2009 at 8:25 AM |

******************************************

Then they dutifully go to their churches and pray and cross themselves on Sunday's...just like the thugs in the mafia do ... it makes them feel clean

Posted by: stormskies on September 25, 2009 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The HuffPo article you link to with the words "fraud and racketeering cases" says nothing about Humana having to recently settle fraud and racketeering cases.

Your statement may well be correct. But that article certainly doesn't support it.

Posted by: converse on September 25, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

it is obvious that until the US government -- someone somehow -- admits that there is no decent reason for private medical insurance companies to exist in this country, there will be no real health care reform.

Posted by: neill on September 25, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

@stormskies Then they dutifully go to their churches and pray and cross themselves on Sunday's...just like the thugs in the mafia do ... it makes them feel clean

The "P" in WASPs, of which the majority of Republicans are, is for Protestants, who rarely "cross themselves" at religious services, unlike your Mafia Catholics, who, at least traditionally, would be Democrats, assuming they hadn't been convicted of a felony and could still vote.

Thus endeth our lesson in American Stereotypes.

Posted by: converse on September 25, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Sibelius should remind the Republicans that Congress has just passed a bill requiring the suspension of payments to organizations charged with filing fraudulent paperwork, and say that she's just getting a start on executing the will of Congress in that matter.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 25, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The HuffPo article you link to with the words "fraud and racketeering cases" says nothing about Humana having to recently settle fraud and racketeering cases.

Here you go.

Here's what they did in Oklahoma.

And here's what Florida fined them.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on September 25, 2009 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

The Administration's attempt to gag Humana violates the First Amendment under several Supreme Court rulings.

I hate to break this to you, but the Supreme Court has said the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of business like Humana even when they are government contractors, in cases like Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr, 518 U.S. 668 (1996).

Whatever their motives, the GOP leaders are quite right that the Administration's attempt to gag Humana violates those First Amendment rulings.

Posted by: Hans Bader on September 25, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Mnemosyne.

Posted by: converse on September 25, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Eugene Volokh, a leading First Amendment scholar and constitutional law professor, has said that the Administration's attempt to gag Humana violates the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has said the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of business like Humana even when they are government contractors, in cases like Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr, 518 U.S. 668 (1996).

That's true even when the government is subsidizing the very program in which speech occurs (see the Legal Services case).

Humana's criticism of the health-care "reform" proposals as potentially destroying Medicare Advantage programs is echoed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, so it is not provably "false."

But even if it were "false," it would still be protected under cases like Johnson v. Multnomah County, that say that even false speech by public employees or contractors can be protected.

Posted by: Hans Bader on September 25, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

if they had to fraud and racketeering cases, shouldnt the anti-ACORN bill strip them oa all taxpayer money anyway?

Posted by: jefft452 on September 25, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

The present GOP and its elected members are NOT a political party; their sole motive is to funnel money to private enterprises and the members of Congress who support those enterprises. Remember the war-cry of the Republican Party? "Government doesn't solve problems, government IS the problem"? The current actions of Republican officeholders on the Federal level fully support the idea that they actually believe that (or else are incredibly cynical). There is no coherent Republican political strategy because their actions are based on two things and two thing only:
1) getting elected by whatever means required,
2) then using one's position in the government to reward campaign donors andf to prepare the way for one's departure from Congress into a high-paying job.
Stating or even implying that there is a recognizable political motive, in the generally accepted view of politics as being a method of government and not just a transit sytem for funds, is just wasting one's time.
(rant off)

Posted by: Doug on September 25, 2009 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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