US Republicans Slam Probe Of Humana Over Medicare Letter
Congressional Republicans on Tuesday accused the federal
government of unfairly targeting health insurance giant Humana Inc.
(HUM) for letters the company sent to Medicare Advantage enrollees
suggesting that health-care legislation could lower their
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in a Sept. 18 letter
to Humana, said it had started an investigation of the company's
marketing practices. The agency ordered Humana to cease telling its
enrollees to call their lawmakers about proposed cuts to
privately-run Medicare plans, known as Medicare Advantage
Medicare officials pointed to letters from Humana to Medicare
Advantage suggesting that, under health-care legislation pushed by
Democrats, seniors and those with disabilities "could lose many of
the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage
health plans so valuable."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday
defended Humana, saying that it is "a common sense conclusion" that
Medicare Advantage benefits could be cut under the legislation.
"We cannot allow government officials to target individuals or
companies because they do not like what they have to say,"
Humana is located in Louisville, Ky., which McConnell
acknowledged in his speech.
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the top Republican on the House Ways
and Means Committee, in a letter Tuesday to CMS, expressed concern
that the agency may have "taken action for political purposes" and
"may be selectively and inappropriately using its regulatory
Camp called for CMS to end its "gag order" against Humana and
provide an explanation of its actions.
A health-care bill under debate this week in the Senate Finance
Committee would seek to trim $123 billion over ten years in
payments to Medicare Advantage plans, putting the plans in a new
competitive bidding program. Lawmakers are divided over what the
effect of the payment cuts will be on enrollees' benefits.
CMS said that Humana's letter was "misleading and confusing to
beneficiaries" and that it had violated the marketing laws for
Medicare Advantage plans.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who sponsors the
committee's health-care legislation, originally requested CMS'
investigation. Baucus in a statement Monday said the Medicare
Advantage provision in his bill "does not cut benefits covered
under the Medicare program - and seniors need to know that."
-By Patrick Yoest, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-3554;