Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I rise in support of Senator Enzi's resolution of disapproval and thank him for that. It seems every day a new story comes out about the negative consequences of the health care reform law, and I cannot keep up with them. I know people involved in the health care industry are having a very difficult time also.
Do you remember the campaign pledge that health care reform would immediately reduce family's premiums by $2,500? Well, last week a slew, a slew of new mandates on health insurers, including coverage of preventative services without any cost sharing, restrictions on annual limits on coverage, and coverage of children up to age 26--I guess a child 25 is a child--took effect.
Many of them, in fact, may be beneficial to some Americans, but they will not come free. Health insurers have begun alerting their customers to the fact that these new mandates cost money, money that has to be charged in additional premiums. I think most Americans understand you cannot get something for nothing.
But instead of admitting that their policies are causing health insurers to raise their rates, the Obama administration has unleashed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to silence its critics by intimidation.
In a letter to America's health insurance plans, the Secretary explicitly threatens health insurers that do not toe the line on ObamaCare with exclusion from the State health insurance exchanges, which start in 2014. ``There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases,'' she has warned. ``We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health care exchanges in 2014.''
Well, let's be clear about what the Secretary, on behalf of the President, is saying. She is threatening to shut down private companies for exercising their first amendment right to free speech, and she is keeping a list. Some have called this gangster government in the press. As a former newspaper man, I am shocked. I am stunned by my former Governor's actions. First, it was the gag order on Humana Insurance for daring to describe the consequences of slashing more than $100 billion from Medicare Advantage to the customers, now this.
This administration says it wants transparency. Well, transparency is a two-way street. It does not mean muzzling dissenting opinions or inconvenient facts because they are not advantageous to the administration. As the Wall Street Journal opinioned: ``They're more subtle than this in Caracas, Venezuela.''
Not only are the actions of the Obama administration unconstitutional, they are also extremely hypocritical in light of their own highly misleading rhetoric. For example, the President and Secretary Sebelius have been touting the recent decision of health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield in North Carolina to issue rebates to its customers in the individual market as a supposed ObamaCare victory.
President Obama claimed this victory at a recent campaign stop in Virginia, saying that the insurance commissioners are newly empowered to look after consumers, that we are already seeing ObamaCare's new levels of accountability pay off.
Well, aside from the fact that most State insurance commissioners have had the ability to review rate increases for years, a fact that Secretary Sebelius, as a former Kansas insurance commissioner, knows all too well, they are leaving out another very important fact, the rest of the story.
What they are not telling you is, the reason why the insurer is paying out rebates is, because of ObamaCare, their plans in the individual insurance market will cease to exist in 2014. This means the reserves they have stored to protect their solvency are no longer necessary.
That is where the rebates are coming from, not some well of hidden profits. The insurer is paying the rebates out of their reserves because the plans will no longer exist. This is hardly a victory for the thousands of people enrolled in those plans. If that is not misleading, I do not know what is.
What about the Secretary's taxpayer-financed mailer regarding Medicare Advantage that was recently sent to seniors all across the country? This mailer misleadingly claims that Medicare Advantage enrollees will not see any changes to their benefits under ObamaCare. That is a claim that is demonstrably false.
Already we are seeing insurers such as Harvard Pilgrim drop their Medicare Advantage plans altogether as a result of these huge cuts. So actually thousands of seniors will see changes in their benefits. They will not have any. I urge the President and the Secretary to reconsider their use of these tactics which only serve to further erode the government's credibility with the American people and to insult their elected representatives.
In the United States of America, private citizens are not only allowed to disagree with the government, it is a cornerstone of our democracy. So I say to the Department of Health and Human Services and the administration, stop the gag orders and the intimidation. To HHS, do not tread on the first amendment.
I yield the floor.