There’s nothing like a Friday evening news release to hide a Washington embarrassment. In last week’s episode, President Obama’s health appointees lifted their outrageous gag order against health insurers for the sin of informing their customers about how ObamaCare would affect their insurance.
In September, Humana Inc. sent a mailer to some 900,000 enrollees in its Medicare Advantage plans, the program that gives seniors a choice of private insurance options, warning that spending cuts would result in reduced benefits and some people losing their coverage. The Congressional Budget Office has said the same thing, but the Obama apparat went nuclear. At the behest of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, Medicare’s administrators menaced Humana with fines and regulatory punishments, and even told all insurers participating in Advantage to shut up too—or else.
In its Friday ruling, Medicare slapped Humana on the wrist for disseminating information that it claimed was “misleading to beneficiaries”—even though it was perfectly true—but also lifted the gag order. Insurers will be allowed to communicate with enrollees, provided they get permission. This is basically a concession that the critics are right, especially considering that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the policy as recently as two weeks ago while refusing to answer questions about this raw political coercion from a supposedly impartial federal bureaucracy.
Read More: Wall Street Journal