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Public Statements

Health Care

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, 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--to clamp down--to use the administration to clamp down on an opponent of the President's health care policy. What is 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 nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office said the administration's proposed Medicare cuts would indeed lead to significant cuts in benefits to seniors.

Let me say that again. We had the Director of the Congressional Budget Office just yesterday confirm that what was said by this health insurance company to its customers was true. Yesterday, we saw how legitimate those concerns were when the Director of the nonpartisan, independent Congressional Budget Office said that the administration's proposed Medicare cuts would indeed lead to significant cuts in benefits to seniors. So a part of the administration is putting a gag order on a company for telling the truth to its customers.

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--anyone--who cherishes their first amendment right to free speech, whether in Louisville, Helena, MT, San Francisco, or anywhere else. It should concern anyone who is 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 citizens 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--believe it or not, an investigation--into Humana for explaining to seniors how this legislation would affect their coverage.

One more time: A private health care provider told its elderly citizens how its health care legislation might affect their lives. 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. Now we find out the concerns the company was raising to its clients were perfectly legitimate, according to the Director of CBO. So, for telling the truth to your clients, you get investigated by the government. This is so clearly an outrage it is 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--shut up or else. This is precisely the kind of thing Americans are worried about with this administration's health care plan.

They are worried that handing government the reins over their health care will lead to this kind of intimidation. They are worried that government agencies, which were created to enforce violations evenhandedly, will, instead, be used against those who voice a different point of view.

That is apparently what is happening here, and to many Americans it is a preview of what is in store for everyone under the administration's health care plan. It is hard to imagine any justification for this. But if 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 should not be allowed to know how the 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 industrywide gag order on an issue of public concern. We are still waiting for a response. So this morning I am asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide my office with its justification for telling a company it cannot communicate with its seniors.

Over the past several months, we have seen a pattern of intimidation by supporters of the administration's health care proposals, including efforts to demonize serious-minded critics at townhall meetings across the country. Now we are 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 is even more troubling now that we are told that Humana was exactly right--exactly right in what it was telling its clients. Americans are already skeptical about the administration's plan. They should be even more skeptical now.

I yield the floor.


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