Senator Baucus threatens Humana for political dissent

September 21, 2009   •  By Sean Parnell
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The Associated Press and others are reporting an alarming development for the First Amendment in the health care debate. Apparently, Montana Senator Max Baucus has requested an investigation of Humana, a health insurance company, for daring to criticize his health care reform proposal and disagreeing with him in the likely outcome should it be passed into law.

From the story

The government is investigating a major insurance company for allegedly trying to scare seniors with a mailer warning they could lose important benefits under health care legislation in Congress.

The Health and Human Services Department launched its investigation of Humana after getting a complaint from Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont…

“It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject-particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform,” Baucus said Monday, disclosing the HHS investigation…

In a warning letter to Humana, HHS said the government is concerned that the mailer “is misleading and confusing” partly because the company’s lobbying campaign could be mistaken for an official communication about Medicare benefits.

HHS ordered the company to immediately halt any such mailings, and remove any related materials from its Web site. In the letter, the government also said it may take other action against Humana, which is based in Louisville, Ky.

Humana’s speech crime is informing its customers that it does not believe that the health care legislation proposed by Senator Baucus will be able to protect their current benefits.

The suppression of dissenting views is simply not tolerated by the First Amendment, and it is shocking that a United States Senator would use the power of his office to initiate an investigation of a private company simply because it does not share his analysis of pending legislation.

Sean Parnell

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