Free Markets, Free People

HHS Secretary threatens insurers with “exclusion” if they don’t toe the government line

America’s new “Health Care Czar”, aka Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, has issued a letter to the insurance industry telling them not so politely to shut up or pay the consequences.

The letter, sent to Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans — the chief lobbyist for private health insurance companies – makes it clear in no uncertain terms that any complaints that ObamaCare is causing insurance premiums to rise is unacceptable:

"There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases."

But that’s not the real problem, that’s just the warning.  Then there’s the threat:

"We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014."

One has to wonder though, whether Sebelius will also track the misinformation put out by the administration and her department.  Such as the implication that no such increases are caused by the law or that any such increases are “minimal”, i.e. in the 1 to 2% range.

That’s just poppycock.  

As Time magazine’s Karen Pickert points out, Sebelius ignores the fact that individual insurance plans cover different types of populations. So that government and "some" industry and academic experts think the new law will justify increases averaging 1 percent or 2 percent, they could justify much larger increases for certain plans.

Or as Ignagni, the recipient of the letter, says, "It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs."

In other words, mandated coverage – with which the law is loaded – costs money.  Whether or not you want it isn’t the point.  You’re going to get it and as expected, that means the cost of your insurance premium will go up.  If, for instance, you’re carrying a minimal coverage policy with fewer benefits than those mandated by ObamaCare, your insurance coverage is about to change dramatically and so is the cost.

But insurers better shut up about the increased cost or, at least, not blame it on ObamaCare or, per the HHS Secretary’s threat, they’ll be “excluded” from the government takeover underway.

As Michael Barone notes today in his Townhall column:

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

"The rule of law, or the rule of men (women)?" economist Tyler Cowen asks on his blog. As he notes, "Nowhere is it stated that these rate hikes are against the law (even if you think they should be), nor can this ‘misinformation’ be against the law."

That, however, doesn’t apparently stop an administration with increasingly totalitarian tendencies from threatening insurers with the loss of their business if they don’t comply and keep their explanations to themselves.

This is outright thuggery.  As Barone points out, this certainly isn’t the first example we’ve seen, nor is it most likely to be the last.  This is pure and blatant intimidation.  There’s no place for this sort of nonsense in democratic republic one of whose founding principles is freedom of speech.

Secretary Sebelius should withdraw the letter immediately and apologize for the threat she issued to the industry as a whole.  She should also understand that she doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t “misinformation” or how insurance companies choose to present the inevitable premium increases driven by ObamaCare to their customers.

If she feels there is misinformation out there that is actionable, then she has a court system on which to rely.  My guess is she knows she hasn’t a case and thus is reduced to threatening insurers instead, hoping they’ll be cowed into compliance.

Your “hope and change” government at work.  



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33 Responses to HHS Secretary threatens insurers with “exclusion” if they don’t toe the government line

  • As my grandpappy always told me, “You can’t get water from a dessicated turnip.”

  • My, my, my. The mask of sugar and spice and every thing nice has slipped revealing the true face of evil.

    • Obama is the stupidest intelligent person ever elected to high office

      • The failed economic policies of Barack Obama (cont.) …

        Just last week, President Obama explicitly targeted the industry for two massive tax hikes. First, he’d ban oil and gas companies from using the “Section 199″ tax credit, a measure for domestic manufacturers enacted in 2004 to boost US employment. (The Senate is set to vote this week on its version of the ban.) Second, he wants to end “dual capacity” protection for US energy firms.
        Without this shield against double taxation on foreign revenues, American companies would be competing on an uneven global playing field. Again, Obama aims directly and specifically at the US oil and gas industry.
        Yet, by the federal government’s own economic model, these tax hikes would lead to huge, immediate job losses. I ran the numbers through the Commerce Department’s RIMS II model; it shows, under the proposed changes to Section 199 and dual capacity, Americans would almost immediately lose more than 150,000 stable, private-sector jobs.

        Even more laughable, most of those 150,000 jobs are union jobs.
        Michelle must keep him away from the China.

  • Again, all part of life in the Obamabanana Republic.  Ms. Jack-Boots of 1973 announcing “zero tolerance” and termination of the non-compliant.
    Henry Whackedman is making noises about some witch-trial hearings again, with corporate execs. who had the gall to publish (as they are required to by law) revised data on their company earnings, showing the impact of ObamaCare.
    All part of the process of Collectivizing you and I on the most personal level, and all part of the process of having it unravel.  People will not submit to this. I damn sure will not.

  • Surprisingly, support for the president among Latinos, young people and women has dropped as much as it has among groups that were considered less likely to stick with the president, such as white males, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

    Support among suburbanites has dropped dramatically too, surveys show, while African American voters remain Obama’s most loyal constituency and his fiercest defenders.

    From the LAT, which is schizophrenic…right after saying “Surprisingly, support…has dropped”, it palliates all it just said by saying, “Ho-hum…all normal stuff at this point in a presidential term…”.  BS.  This isn’t the normal disaffection.

  • Sebelius is undergoing some sort of transition to a real Robo-Rogue Feminazi Bitch whose PMS demands her complete domination and your complete submission—let’s call it the Napolitano Syndrome!
    I guess this Jayhawk fan freaked out when N. Dakota State [former home of QB Josh Duhamel married to Fergie] whipped her mama’s-boy laddies a couple weeks ago.

  • The plan continues to work itself out.

    The naked face of leftism is too ugly even for their compliant media to cover up with cosmetics. Good. I want their ugliness, thuggishness, and delusion exposed for everyone to see. I want them so obviously tarred with failure and contempt that they can’t gain serious power for at least a generation.

    • Do you think anyone other than us is hearing about this? If Bush had done this, the NYT would have made sure it was run 24/7 until it was a “national issue.” Now, its a tidbit for blogs.

      • Not as widely as I would like, but yes, the sum total of their smarmy thuggishness does eventually penetrate the media fog surrounding some people. Enough to make a difference, I hope.

  • Sounds like we need at least one branch of Congress under a different party than the White House … but that goes without saying.

  • In another example of vital statistics being grossly distorted by a combination of poor record keeping and possibly people with a selfish agenda, it is being reported in the Guardian and elsewhere that possibly hundreds of thousands of people over age 100 in Japan are actually dead, but unreported. Investigations are now underway to determine how much of this problem is due to record keeping problems and how much to family members failing to report the deaths of their elderly relatives in order to continue to collect their pension benefits by fraudulent means.

    In this country, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, would be prevented by the DOJ Voting Rights Section from removing these people from the roles of HHS beneficiaries for fear the right of the dead would be violated.  Instead, she is traveling the road less taken to intimidate health care companies.

    • And, under ObamaCare, what accountability could we expect?

      • 60 Minutes did a story on Medicare fraud last week (or the week before) where one of the fraudsters conjectured that 95% of all Medicare (equipment) providers in Miami were fraudulent.  The like to “buy” replacement prosthetics … one “faux patient” got 2 arms and a leg … because of their high cost.

    • Hmm, if these outliers skew the life expectancy, then their medical model might not be as great as we think. I wonder if Europe has a similar problem?

      • One of the MANY reasons the Collective’s beloved rankings of the U.S. are COMPLETELY bogus.  Many nations…including developed ones…do NOT count many deaths during gestation in their “Infant Mortality” stats, for instance.

      • We already know that if you account for homicide and auto accident deaths, the US leads in average life span.

  • Leftist goonery. This sounds so much like the goonery of the 20s and 30s in other countries, a bit toned down but similar.

  • At what point do we call this Bullshit?
    My thought is, if our right to free speech is circumvented, and we just lap it up, what’s the message we’re sending?
    What new outrage does tomorrow bring? Will we be just as compliant?

  • I am not a lawyer but isn’t this a perfect example of prior restraint and a “chilling effect”.  I mean, isn’t it actionable. The insurance group should go to a federal judge immediately and get a court cease and desist order against HHS for stifling free speech and intimidation.

  • Bear with me…

    I recently saw an episode of the series “Leverage”.  The premise is that the main character, Timothy Hutton, lost his son to a rare disease because the dirty, nasty, greedy insurance company that employed Hutton refused to pay for an experimental treatment that WOULD have saved the boy’s life.  So, he quit and became a crook; the series is about him directing a group of modern-day Robin Hoods who get even with fat cats who make their living ripping off other people.

    In short, the left has so thoroughly demonized insurance companies in the popular culture that I can only wish one good luck in defending them against government thuggery.  It’s about as hopeful a case as standing up for the free speech rights of nazis or the klan.

    • Mr. docjim505,
       I used to work for a local hospital, in the IT dep’t. What the show you mentioned describes is just standard operating procedure for the large insurance companies. They don’t make money paying claims. That’s a fact, and said companies have demonized themselves by their callousness.

       Right now in Akron there is a young man who was severely injured in an industrial accident. He has lost his body from the waist down. He’s doing ok. But get this.

       His mom needs an expensive set of drugs to treat her medical condition. Aetna is on record as saying they will no longer pay for these meds since her ex-husband lost his coverage. Aetna will, however, pay for a kidney transplant, which this lady will need if she stops taking said meds. How stupid is that?

       Tell me, do you really think the “market” would make this better? If it would, why is it no other insurance company has stepped forward to take this woman on their coverage?

       It’s simple. No insurance company wants to pay out a claim, only suck in the largest premiums they can. 

       It’s sick. And it needs to stop. 

      • But this sort of scenario won’t stop under a nationalized service, because the government will have the same issue that insurers have.  The only real difference is that you won’t have anyone else to turn to when the government is the one denying you care.

  • The law requires these insurance companies to file this information with the SEC.

    How about "We would have had to raise rates to provide the coverage we are being paid to provide, but the government forbids us to raise our prices.  What do you think is going to happen?"

    I eagerly await November.