GOP Threatens White House Over Medicare ‘Gag-Order’
It’s no news that Republicans are up in arms over the recent White House decision to bar insurance companies from encouraging their customers to oppose the Democrats’ health reform plans. But today they upped the ante.
In a letter to the White House, Republican leaders have threatened to block confirmation of 10 White House nominees to various posts in the Health and Human Services Department unless the “gag-order” is rescinded. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reiterated that threat today on Fox News.
“None of those people will get through the Senate easily until they lift the gag order,” McConnell said.
None of these people make it through the Senate without extensive debate until they lift the gag order and allow the First Amendment to function for everyone in this country, including people who just happen to be doing business with the federal government.
The ruckus began last week when the federal Medicare agency announced an investigation into Humana for letters the insurance giant had mailed to seniors warning that the Democrats’ health reform plans were threatening their private insurance coverage, called Medicare Advantage. The letters urged the seniors to contact their lawmakers opposing the legislation.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claim those letters represent a breach of contract, because CMS requires MA sponsors to screen such mailings through the agency. CMS has barred all MA sponsors from sending similar messages to their customers. Republicans, though, say the First Amendment trumps the CMS guidelines.
This might have been just a minor footnote in the debate over health reform. But the GOP holds on the HHS nominees mean it could grow into something much bigger.