Camp: Who Made Gag Order Decision?
Washington, DC – Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) today requested additional information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the growing controversy surrounding the agency’s gag order on private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which prevents companies from sharing factual information with their enrollees.
“I have never seen anything like this and I question if politics was the deciding factor,” said Camp. “Given that the Administration has failed for more than eight months to nominate a director for CMS, I wonder if undue political pressure may have been applied on the CMS staff. It is Congress’ responsibility to find out the facts and protect the interests of the American people. We need to know who contacted CMS, when they did it and what was said. Remember, what CMS has blocked is the distribution of facts backed up by the non-partisan, independent analysis of CBO. Yet, they allowed misinformation to be spread by a Medicare Advantage plan sponsor, AARP, who supports the President’s goal to cut $500 billion from Medicare. That kind of abuse of power cannot go unchecked.”
In his letter to CMS Acting Administrator Charlene Frizzera, Camp requested she provide members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the MA program, with a detail account of any and all documents and communications regarding the MA gag order between the Acting Administrator or CMS staff and the President, his staff – including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle – and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her staff.
Camp’s full letter follows:
September 23, 2009
Dear Acting Administrator Frizzera,
I was concerned to learn that the gag order you placed on private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, which prevents these companies from sharing with their enrollees factual information about Medicare cuts proposed by both President Obama and Democrats in Congress, may have been prompted not by a violation of federal regulations but rather inappropriate political pressure from proponents of reform within the Administration and outside of it.
Given the impact these Medicare cuts would have on seniors’ health care benefits and the right and obligation of private plans to share factual information with their members, it is critical that Congress know exactly how and why you made your decision to pursue this unusual course of action. You will recall that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has stated the cuts proposed in H.R. 3200, the House Democrats bill, “could lead many plans to limit the benefits they offer, raise their premiums, or withdraw from the program.” CBO has also predicted that H.R. 3200 will result in 3 million seniors currently enrolled in MA losing their coverage. Any decision you make preventing that information from being relayed to the American people – the constituents I and my colleagues represent – must be made in the open. The appearance of using federal regulations as a tool for political ends is a serious concern that must be addressed.
Therefore, I am writing to request that you immediately provide to all Members of the Committee on Ways and Means any and all documents and communications with regard to initiating an investigation into Humana or censoring any other Medicare Advantage plans you or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) staff had with the President, his staff – including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Director of the White House Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle – and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her staff.
This information is critical to showing the American public, and especially Medicare beneficiaries, that the Administration is approaching and discussing health care reform in an open and honest manner. Given the importance of these issues and the accelerated time-line for consideration of health care reform, I ask that this information be provided by October 1, 2009.
I look forward to your prompt response.
Committee on Ways and Means