The lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Sept. 13, was titled “Sebelius Has a List: Political thuggery from HHS.” In slightly abridged form, it reads:
….The White House was always going to blame insurance companies for any cost increases, even when its own policies cause them.
Witness Kathleen Sebelius’s Thursday letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards. The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”
Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They’re more subtle than this in Caracas.
What Ms. Sebelius really means is that the government will prohibit insurers from doing business if reality is not politically convenient for Democrats. ObamaCare includes a slew of mandated benefits for next year, such as allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26 and “free” preventative care (i.e., no direct out-of-pocket cost sharing for consumers). The tone of Ms. Sebelius’s letter suggests that she doesn’t understand that money is exchanged for goods and services, and that if Congress mandates new benefits, premiums will rise.
The Administration estimates that these regulations should increase all premiums by 1% to 2% on average. Even if that turns out to be right—on average—that isn’t what insurers are finding in practice in the local, price-sensitive individual and small business insurance markets, where coverage is typically less comprehensive to hold down costs. For some current policies in some states, the one-year increase jumps as much as 9%.
ObamaCare gives Ms. Sebelius’s regulators the power to define “unreasonable” premium hikes, which will mean whatever they decide it will mean later this fall. She promised to keep a list of insurers “with a record of unjustified rate increases” and then to bar them from ObamaCare’s subsidized “exchanges” when they come on line in 2014. In other words, insurers must accept price controls now or face the retribution of a de facto ban on selling their products to consumers four years from now.
This is nasty stuff and an obvious attempt to shift political blame for rising insurance costs before the election. It’s also an early sign of life under ObamaCare, when all health-care decisions are political and the bureaucrats decide who can charge how much for a service or product….
On the same day, Realclearpolitics com published a column on the same subject, “Gangster Government Stifles Criticism of Obamacare,” by the eminent commentator, Michael Barone. He said, in part:
“Congress shall make no law,” reads the First Amendment, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Sebelius’ approach is different: “zero tolerance” for dissent.
The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery…(I)t is a form of gangster government.