This is precisely the kind of thing Americans are worried about with the administration’s health care plan. They’re worried that handing government the reins over their health care will lead to just this kind of intimidation. They’re worried that government agencies which were created to enforce violations even-handedly will instead be used against those who voice a different point of view’
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding free speech in the health care debate:
“Yesterday afternoon I came to the floor to speak out against one of the tactics that supporters of the President’s health care proposal have resorted to in recent days.
“It appears that a particular senator has encouraged the administration to use its powers to clamp down on an opponent of the administration’s health care policy.
“What’s more, the administration snapped to attention at the senator’s request. It followed the senator’s advice, and almost immediately the government clamped down on a private health care company in my home state that had been sharing its concerns about the administration’s health care proposal with seniors on Medicare.
“Yesterday, we saw how legitimate those concerns were, when the director of the non-partisan independent Congressional Budget Office said that the administration’s proposed Medicare cuts would indeed lead to significant cuts in benefits to seniors. Let me repeat that.
“First and foremost, this episode should be of serious concern to millions of seniors on Medicare who deserve to know what the government has in mind for their health care. But it should also frighten anyone who cherishes their First Amendment right to free speech — whether in Louisville, Helena, San Francisco, or anywhere else.
“And it should concern anyone who’s already worried about a government takeover of health care. Why? Because it seems that in order to advance its goals, the administration and its allies are now attacking citizen groups and stifling free speech.
“Let’s review: at the instigation of the Chairman of the Finance Committee, the author of the health care legislation now working its way through Congress, the Executive Branch, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has launched an investigation into Humana for explaining to seniors how this legislation might affect their coverage.
“One more time: a private health care provider told its elderly clients how health care legislation might affect their lives. And now the federal government is putting its full weight into investigating that company at the request of the senator who wrote the legislation in question.
“And we now find out that the concerns that this company was raising to its clients were perfectly legitimate, according to the director of the CBO.
“This is so clearly an outrage it’s hard to believe anyone thought it would go unnoticed. For explaining to seniors how legislation might affect them, the federal government has now issued a gag order on that company, and any other company that communicates with clients on the issue, telling them to shut up — or else.
“This is precisely the kind of thing Americans are worried about with the administration’s health care plan. They’re worried that handing government the reins over their health care will lead to just this kind of intimidation. They’re worried that government agencies which were created to enforce violations even-handedly will instead be used against those who voice a different point of view.
“That’s apparently what’s happening here, and to many Americans, it’s a preview of what’s in store for everyone under the administration’s health care plan.
“It’s hard to imagine any justification for this. But if the people behind this latest effort believe they have some legal justification for shutting up a private company, then they need to explain themselves to the American people. More specifically, they need to explain to 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage why they shouldn’t be allowed to know how cuts to this program will affect their coverage.
“Yesterday my office called CMS to ask for the legal authority that would warrant them imposing an industry-wide gag order on an issue of public concern. We’re still waiting for a response. So this morning, I’m asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide my office with its justification for telling a company it can’t communicate with its seniors.
“Over the past several months, we’ve seen a pattern of intimidation by supporters of the administration’s health care proposal — including efforts to demonize serious-minded critics at town hall meetings across the country.
“Now we’re seeing something even worse: the full power of the federal government being brought to bear on businesses by the very people writing the legislation.
“This was troubling enough in itself. It’s even more troubling now that we’re told that Humana was exactly right in what it was telling clients. Americans were already skeptical about the administration’s plan. They should be even more skeptical now.”