Sunday, July 7, 2013

Obamacare Extortion and Exploitation

By Alan Caruba

As scandals go, it was one of those lessor ones we have become accustomed to hearing about regarding the Obama administration’s preference for strong-arm tactics and an utter disregard for either ethics or the law.

At a June hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, was asked if she saw any ethical or legal problem when she asked two major organizations, the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—funded by its Johnson & Johnson stock—and H&R Block to donate to Enroll America, a non-profit set up by Obama’s former campaign backers; the purpose being to underwrite a campaign to gain support for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare.

According to an article in The Washington Times, “Ms. Sebelius said she never asked for money from entities that are regulated by her agency, but she did speak to three of them—multinational medical products company Johnson & Johnson, Catholic health system Ascension health, and non-profit insurance firm Keiser Permanente—on a more general basis about the Enroll America’s efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act.”

When you get a call from the HHS Secretary, you know she wants you to either do or not do something. In a World Net Daily article by Jack Minor, he reported that “ Just weeks ago, the administration told insurance companies they would be required to send letters to all policy holders, including those not receiving rebates, talking about the benefits of Obamacare.”

Minor noted that “Many polls reveal Americans solidly against the law, and some analysts believe the Supreme Court, which is reviewing a key component of it, might strike it down.” That would be good news for everyone, but for now the Obama administration is prepared to spend $20 million of taxpayer money to promote it.

HHS’s Center for Medicare and Medicare Services recently signed a $20 million dollar contract with the public relations firm, Porter Novelli, to promote Obamacare.

Asking companies and other entities that have a stake in the health care marketplace to make a “donation” has the whiff of extortion to it and ordering insurance companies to not tell their customers that their rates will go up thanks to Obamacare smacks of deception.

This fits in perfectly with the way Obamacare was passed in 2009 when all manner of pressure and political bribes were used to secure the vote. Famously, then House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters that they had to pass it “in order to find out what was in it.” Since then we have discovered it was comparable to receiving a bag of snakes for your birthday.

Benjamin Domenech, the managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Health Care News, reported that former White House chief ethics counsel, Richard Painter, said that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s large investment in Johnson & Johnson, “a company under Sebelius’ purview, makes the foundation a ‘prohibited source’ that she cannot solicit money from under government ethics rules.”

HHS, however, isn’t content to spend $20 million on a public relations campaign. They have reached out to the commissioners of the National Football League and National Basketball Association to promote Obamacare. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) sent a letter to commissioners Roger Goodell and David Stern asking for further details about the HHS request.

“Considering the recent investigations,” said Rep. Scalise, “into reports that Secretary Sebelius has blurred ethical lines by soliciting donations from businesses with matters before her agency in order to help promote components of President Obama’s health care law, there is a disturbing pattern by the Obama Administration to inappropriately solicit support for their policies by entitles that they oversee and regulate.” He wanted to know if either the NFL or NBA had been asked to contribute funds or in-kind services to any third-party organization.

Not content to strong-arm those involved with the healthcare or insurance industries, it has recently been reported that the Los Angeles Unified School District will use a state grant to train teenagers to promote Obamacare to family members. On May 14, Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced grants of $37 million to promote the unpopular law.

Using the young members of families to “educate” their parents and older relatives to support Obamacare is a classic example of authoritarian governments, past and present, to exert influence beyond highly funded public relations programs. It smacks of desperation. And exploitation.

The administration has cause for desperation. In late June, a Gallup poll showed that 52% of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, compared to 44% who approve of it. An increasing number of Americans, as they become more aware of the law’s impact on their lives, are lining up against it.

The decision to put off implementing elements of Obamacare throughout 2014 is an effort to keep the growing opposition to Obamacare during the year of the next midterm elections from costing Democrats losses. And where does Obama get the power to decide what parts of this or any other legislation he will enforce or ignore? A law is a law. You don't get to choose what you will enforce or not.

Commenting on the delay, Domenech said the decision was “nothing more than a craven admission that he (Obama) knows how unworkable his health policy overhaul is…he just doesn’t want to suffer the political consequences for it while in office.”

Writing in a June 28 opinion, published in The Washington Times, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that “In addition to potentially causing upward of 20 million Americans to lose their private health insurance policies, it could destroy an estimated 800,00 jobs…A year after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Obamacare, its full, disastrous impact still looms ahead.”

 © Alan Caruba, 2013

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