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“In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which, as any American high school student can tell you, was an act that apparently had something to do with stamps.”     Dave Barry

September 24, 2009

HHS Blocks Misleading Insurance Company Propoganda! [It Just Happens To Be True]

by Brad Warbiany

The Department of Health and Human Services isn’t pleased. You see, Humana has sent out a mailer (PDF) claiming that under the proposed health care legislation, Medicare Advantage benefits might be cut. HHS thinks this might be misleading, partly because Max Baucus (D-MT) says it won’t cut benefits and because they suggest it can be confused with an official Medicare communication (from the AP, via EconLog):

“The health care reform bill we released … strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits,” said Baucus. “From lower prescription drug costs, to free preventive care, to better treatment for chronic conditions, seniors have so much to gain from health reform — and I’m not going to let insurance company profits stand in the way of improving Medicare for seniors.”

Humana has about 1.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees, and the program accounts for about half the company’s revenue, Noland said.

The Humana mailer focused squarely on the Medicare Advantage program.

“While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable,” it said.

In a warning letter to Humana, HHS said the government is concerned that the mailer “is misleading and confusing” partly because the company’s lobbying campaign could be mistaken for an official communication about Medicare benefits.

HHS ordered the company to immediately halt any such mailings, and remove any related materials from its Web site. In the letter, the government also said it may take other action against Humana.

A PDF of the mailer is linked above. It certainly seems to me to be a “call your congressman” message, not an official Medicare communication.

So that leaves point #2. It could be misleading, false advertising. After all, Max Baucus says that Medicare Advantage won’t be cut, and he’s one of the main guys writing the bill. And he’s a Congressman, surely he can be trusted!

Or… Maybe not. At least, the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t think so (via QandO):

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare’s managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

The bill would cut payments to the Medicare Advantage plans by more than $100 billion over 10 years.

Elmendorf said the changes would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries.

Hmm. So Humana is under the gun for “misleading and confusing” communications.

But they’re just reporting the facts of what is going on in Congress! Oh, wait, I guess that’s pretty much misleading and confusing by definition…

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1 Comment

  1. Apparently you haven’t read the 2009 edition of Merriam-Webster’s. New definitions have been added to confusing and misleading.

    misleading adj. pertaining to any piece of information that challenges congressional assertions

    confusing adj. pertaining to any piece of information that references reality in the context of a political debate

    Now that these new definitions are in place, I personally aim to be confusing and misleading as often as possible!

    Comment by Quincy — September 25, 2009 @ 8:25 am

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