Health insurer Humana sent a letter to Medicare Advantage plans enrollees. Containing questionable material, the Humana letter was censored by democratic congressman Max Baucus. Is this too far reaching by the Administration?
Humana Letter Designed to Scare Medicare Recipients
The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal government is coming down hard on insurer Humana. Letter writer and Medicare Advantage plans enrollee targeting Humana is alleged to have sent propaganda materials to seniors, which contained blatantly false statements opposing the democrats’ version of healthcare legislation.
At issue is the Humana letter suggestion that currently proposed healthcare plans will lead to a loss of Medicare Advantage benefits to recipients. This prompted an investigation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) – at the behest of Max Baucus — with respect to Humana and its marketing methodologies. In the wake of the Humana letter to Medicare recipients, the company was ordered to stop its supposedly misleading efforts.
Humana Letter Opens Debate on Scare Tactics in Marketing Materials
At the heart of the issue involving Humana, Medicare and the letter in question are alleged scare tactics. The Humana letter alleged that Medicare Advantage enrollees could experience adverse consequence if healthcare legislation is passed; it did not come out and state it as fact. This is a time honored means of rallying a grassroots base with election and marketing literature.
Kaiser Health News advises that CMS went so far as to send a letter to a number of insurers marketing private Medicare plans to seniors, which stated that they, too, might find themselves on the receiving end of a legal action if they suggest in their marketing anything that could potentially alarm their customers with respect to the proposed healthcare legislation.
Should Feds Censor Inconvenient Communications to the Electorate?
Taking the case of the Humana letter and applying it to Los Angeles – and California – elections materials makes it clear that this is a slippery slope if ever there existed one. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to have a two year tax hike blessed by tax payers in recent months, it was soundly voted down. In spite of the marketing scare tactics that suggested firefighters, police officers and other essential services to Californians would be cut, the electorate saw through the glossy election brochure statements with their careful wordings.
This begs the question: are seniors and enrollees in Medicare Advantage plans any less capable of ferreting out the truth behind cleverly worded marketing letters? Does it truly require an involvement from the federal government – at the express instigation of a politician no less – to silence an opponent to currently championed legislation, so as to “protect” the electorate from disagreeing with the Administration? Conversely, is this an attack on the freedom of speech that even giant companies should enjoy in the United States?
If the recent suggestion on the White House’s Macon Phillips blog to “report your neighbor to the White House over healthcare” is any indication, freedom of speech is turning into an endangered species.