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Does Humana have the right to mislead the elderly about health care reform?

Late last week, Medicare officials admonished Humana for using Medicare customer lists to engage in political advocacy and lobbying. Monday, Medicare officials sent a memorandum to all Medicare insurance companies explicitly prohibiting them from doing the same. This action by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) represents a major policy shift from one administration to another and could lead to a legal case with the potential to establish new legal principles within a contested area of First Amendment (free speech) law.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the floor of the Senate to argue, "This is American -- citizens, either as individuals or grouped together in companies, have a fundamental right -- a fundamental right -- to talk about legislation they favor or oppose in this country. This is the core of the First Amendment’s protection of speech

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Asked by sweet-a-kins at 2:04 PM on Sep. 24, 2009 in Politics & Current Events

Level 34 (67,502 Credits)
Answers (47)
  • However, Constitutional scholars agree commercial speech is not the "core" of the First Amendment's protection. Courts consistently give political speech the greatest level of protection under the First Amendment and commercial speech the lowest protection. Courts also hold political speech to the lowest standards of accuracy and commercial speech to the highest standards of accuracy. After that, it gets complicated.

    Stanford Law School Lecturer Chip Pitts notes, "The power of companies and the possibility of commercially oriented powerful communications unfairly distorting the public debate and obstructing the best (or better) policy outcomes has been the rationale underlying regulation in this area for more than a century."

    So is this Ok, do first amendment rights apply? How about McConnell defending them?

    Answer by sweet-a-kins at 2:05 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • For more 100 years, explains Pitts, many have regarded concentrations of power (e.g., corporations, unions) with a high degree of suspicion, which harkens back to the question of corporate personhood. Some legal theorists and political scientists contend that powerful actors can disrupt the political process and crowd out discuss and debate in the marketplace of ideas.

    Currently, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not include political communications in its Medicare Marketing Guidelines [pdf]. This is perhaps due to the question of Constitutional limitations on the regulation of political speech: The government can regulate speech that is deemed commercial (e.g., communications in the pecuniary interest of an insurance company) but not speech that is deemed purely political in nature. Spokespersons at CMS were unable to answer this question.

    Answer by sweet-a-kins at 2:06 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • What specifically did they say that was considered misleading? From what I have read, they referenced Medicare benefits might be cut under health care reform based on the reports from te Congressional Budget Office. Looks to me the federal government is NOT allowing an insurance company to question the bill and encourage their customers to question the bill which would then lead to an HONEST debate about the health care bill.



    Answer by grlygrlz2 at 2:21 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • There is no argument that they mislead people, McConnell isn't even disputing that. Just that they have the RIGHT to do it

    Answer by sweet-a-kins at 2:23 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • There is NOTHING misleading about the mailer. mailer


    Answer by grlygrlz2 at 2:26 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • I see nothing wrong with this mailer.

    Answer by grlygrlz2 at 2:27 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • Thank you grlygrlz2! There is absolutely nothing misleading about the letter. It only went out to people that currently do business with Humana. It is their right to contact their customers. They can't issue a gag order, there is no court proceeding involving Humana and the govt.

    I think it is a very scary attempt to silence the dissenters....many of which are the elderly. There are serious cuts to medicare. The people have a right to know about them. There is nothing wrong with medicare advantage policy holders getting that info from their insurer. IMO, it is the insurers responsiblity to let them know of possible changes to their policies.


    Answer by yourspecialkid at 2:33 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • Not to mention, HHS did not have any problems with AARP's article to their members that incorrectly(based on the CBO report) claims that Medicare benefits will not be affected. If Obama's plan is truly better and not going to hinder Medicare Advantage Benefits. Were is the proof from Democrats and Obama?  Their bill should be able to withstand TRUE debate without the need of a Federal Gag Order on a company who questions a proposed bill.


    Answer by grlygrlz2 at 2:36 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • Just more wanting to shut people up ladies typical of this admin.

    Answer by tnmomofive at 3:03 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

  • They weren't "misleading" anyone sweet-a-kins. The only ones guilty of that right now is our government! They're trying to shove a very bad UHC plan down our throats, and keep anyone who would dare speak out against it, quiet.  This is a typical, liberal tactic.

    They're doing the same thing with this, that they did with the stimulus package...they never bothered to take the time to READ what was actually in it.  Instead, they rushed it through, using the same rhetoric they're using in trying to get UHC passed. "Sit down, shut up, close your eyes, and sign on the dotted line."  IT'S WRONG, AND PEOPLE ARE NOT GOING TO KEEP QUIET ABOUT IT!!!


    Answer by MemawBrie at 3:14 PM on Sep. 24, 2009

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