Camp demands hearings on so-called Medicare ‘gag order’

The ranking Republican on the House’s Ways and Means Committee is calling for hearings into whether the Obama administration was wrong to block Medicare providers from informing their subscribers about potential plan cuts.

That directive — issued this week by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) following a request from Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — qualifies as little more than a "gag order" that defies legal precedent, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) told Fox News on Friday.

"Even the Clinton administration had a policy that recognized the constitutional validity of communication of this kind," Camp said. "They’re really trying to prevent seniors form learning how this may affect them, and I think they would do better if they let people get whatever information there is, good or bad, and them make their own decision."

The saga started last Friday when CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services announced they would investigate Humana, a leading provider in the government’s Medicare Advantage program. At the time, lawmakers and Obama administration officials were concerned that the letters Humana mailed to its subscribers — which informed them how the Senate Finance Committee’s bill might affect their plans — actually violated federal law on Medicare mailings. Some Democrats labeled the communications themselves misleading.

By Monday, however, CMS directed all Medicare providers to cease and desist such campaigns — a move that angered Republicans, who argued the policy violated previous court rulings and legal opinions that permitted plan providers to communicate those messages to patients, provided their dollars did not pay for them.

In an effort to force CMS to reverse its rule, Senate Republicans have since threatened to block confirmation of key HHS nominees — including the Surgeon General.

But on Friday, Camp became one of the first lawmakers to ask his committee — which oversees CMS

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