WASHINGTON, September 22, 2009–The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently launched an investigation into an attempt by the health insurance company Humana to enlist its customers to fight proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. The investigation was initiated at the urging of Senator Max Baucus, who said, “It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject–particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform. . . . I’m not going to let insurance company profits stand in the way of improving Medicare for seniors.”
According to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Center, “It is painfully obvious–and alarming–that Humana is not being investigated for its ‘marketing’ practices. It is being investigated because it had the gall to challenge the assertions of a member of Congress.
“The implication of Baucus’s statement is that Humana must be investigated for in effect defrauding its customers by misleading them about the nature of Baucus’s proposal. But what did Humana’s ‘fraudulent’ claim consist of? No one disputes the fact that the budget for Medicare Advantage could be slashed under the health care bills now in Congress. The dispute is over the effects this will have. Humana claimed it could potentially lead to some of its customers losing benefits–not an unreasonable view–but Baucus insists ‘The health care reform bill we released . . . strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits.’
“Think of what it would mean for politicians–hardly notorious for their scrupulous honesty–to be able to punish Americans because our claims about the effects of a proposed law conflict with their assertions.
“In a free country, it is not a crime to question the claims of one’s political leaders. If Baucus’s action is allowed to go unchallenged, however, free speech is gravely threatened.”