Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The first casualty of war is truth. The first casualty of health care reform? Free speech.

While most health care insurers have gone along with reform proposals, even helping write the bills, a few insurance companies fall outside the insiders’ perimeter, fearful of more regulation. The regulatory environment is already oppressive, after all — though, for the insurance industry these regs come mainly from the states.

So, we now learn, at least one medical insurance provider, Humana, sent out a special letter to policyholders who also participate in the Medicare Advantage program, advising them of what the effects of new reforms on their coverage would likely be.

What happened next?

If you guessed “gag order,” you got it.

After Humana’s expression of First Amendment rights, the Department of Health and Human Services told all insurers participating in Medicare Advantage to zip it, stifle themselves, express their thoughts in no way about any proposed reform to their policyholders — even if all such expression amounts to is a list of facts.

Penalties include both fines and jail time.

Yes, folks, this is what unlimited government means. Increase government’s role and “hasta la vista” to some very basic freedoms.

Just as government micromanagement of markets leads to shortages and rising prices, so increased government has predictable consequences. We pay for big government in lost freedom as well as dollars.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor

20 Comments

  1. Tom Degan says:

    Here an excerpt from an open letter to the American people written recently by my brother, Jeff:

    “In the US, you pay more, get less, and die younger than we do in Europe. What part of that don’t you understand?

    “My fellow Americans, you have nothing to fear except those who would use fear to keep you enslaved to the myth of the might of the American health care system.”

    Jeff Degan

    What can I tell you, the guy is a communist. Not only does he live in France, he actually likes it there! Go figure.

    http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  2. G Hadley says:

    Would it be possible to put a link to the actual letter from DHHS? I am glad that you put the link to another analysis of the letter but it would be nice to see the complete letter to be able to place everything in context. Also could we see the letter from Humana?

  3. Rick Bridgeman says:

    I dispute the comment that, “The first casualty of war is truth.” The first casualty of war is, and has always been, whatever warfighting plan you thought you had.

  4. Dave Wolff says:

    I read your column on open primaries with great interest and I can see the problems with the “two top” system.

    However, many years ago had an open primary system that consisted of allowing candidates to file in both the Democratic and Republican primaries and it worked very well. It is a shame that the politicians killed it.

    Two examples:
    Earl Warren, who was very popular, won both primaries.

    The other side of the coin:
    One of the worst Attorneys General that we ever had, a man by the name of Frederick Napoleon Hauser, lost of both primaries, and the Democratic nominee, Pat Brown, thus launched his political career.

    Dave Wolff

  5. Some News says:

    […] Scary and disgusting. […]

  6. […] This post was Twitted by justinamash […]

  7. Is Government Preparing Us for Censorship?
    [May 2, 2009]
    by Tibor R. Machan

    In a series of articles on climate change the villain is gradually being
    identified as, you should have guessed it, freedom of thought!

    One Jon Gertner of The New York Times Magazine wrote the other day that
    “What makes CRED’s work [the Center for Research on Environmental
    Decisions] especially relevant … is that various human attitudes and
    responses–How can there be global warming when we had a frigid January?
    What’s in it for me if I change the way I live?–can make the climate
    problem worse by leaving it unacknowledged or unaddressed. Apathetic and
    hostile responses to climate change, in other words, produce a feedback
    loop and reinforce the process of global warming (4/19/09).”

    The idea that thought and speech are major obstacles to doing what is
    right isn’t new at all. As recently as the 1980s the one liberty that
    liberal statists could be counted on defending, at least in the United
    States of America, is the one spelled out in the First Amendment to the
    Constitution. Alas, this was challenged some time ago by Professor
    Catharine A. MacKinnon of the University of Michigan school of law, in her
    short but prominently published book, Only Words (Harvard University
    Press, 1983). In it the good professor argued that words do not deserve
    the legal protection afforded them by the Constitution since insults and
    put downs, including jokes, can injure people good and hard. And such
    injuries should not be protected. The victims would have to pay too high a
    price for the fact that the law treats such injuries as “only words.”

    We have heard a good deal lately about how President Barack Obama is a
    pragmatists, how he eschews ideology. The most sensible rendition of this
    sound bite is that he refuses to be bound by principles and when it comes
    to something as vital as containing climate change, why not toss the First
    Amendment and censor those who show skepticism? Professor MacKinnon wasn’t
    recommending tossing the principle underlying the First Amendment, only
    suggesting that we should not be ideological about our embrace of it.
    Maybe the same should be expected from President Obama when it comes to a
    central elements of his political agenda, namely, to contain pollution.

    This pragmatism isn’t across the board for Mr. Obama, of course. As with
    all loyal pragmatists he, too, is willing to stick to a select few
    principles and refuse to give them up even in times of emergency.
    Consider, for example, that according the Obama & Co. there is never any
    excuse for using torture! I will not speculate on why in that instance
    pragmatism is inadequate–various suggestions present themselves and some
    of them aren’t pretty at all. Suffice it to note that Mr. Obama seems to
    be perfectly willing to toss jettison the principles of the free
    market–the right to private property, the right to enter into binding
    contracts, the right to due process. And here we have evidence that like
    minded folks, too, appear not to be very worried about banning certain
    kinds of inconvenient conduct such as speaking out against the
    doctrine–the ideology?–of climate change.

    We should be prepared, I believe, for some movement in this direction.
    Apathy toward climate change isn’t tolerable, nor is skepticism. Leaving
    the climate problem unacknowledged or unaddressed would also count as
    something we ought not to tolerate–so if I speak out against recycling,
    for example, maybe I ought to be muzzled since not doing so will “produce
    a feedback loop and reinforce the process of global warming.”

    Just as Professor MacKinnon’s abandoning of the First Amendment seemed to
    her fully justified, given how that Amendment made it possible to insult
    and intimidate women, so it should come as no big surprise to anyone that
    laws will be passed that prohibit global warming skepticism. Such
    dangerous conduct on the part of citizens must be arrested, or so some of
    the climate change fanatics could well believe now, quite seriously.

  8. Bill Koehler says:

    Abolish HHS

  9. L’etat C’est Moi says:


    “gag order,” you got it.

    After Humana’s expression of First Amendment rights, the Department of Health and Human Services told all insurers participating in Medicare Advantage to zip it, stifle themselves, express their thoughts in no way about any proposed reform to their policyholders — even if all such expression amounts to is a list of facts.

    Penalties include both fines and jail time.

    Yes, folks, this is what unlimited government means. Increase government’s role and “hasta la vista” to some very basic freedoms.

    Just as government micromanagement of markets leads to shortages and rising prices, so increased government has predictable consequences. We pay for big government in lost freedom as well as dollars.

    This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

    Shaeth Up
    !

    Or else
    !

  10. Tom, Americans *do* die younger. However, that’s because of our high rate of gun deaths and automobile deaths. Take them out, and America’s health care would be about average for any European state.

  11. ThinkLife says:

    Free speech a casualty of health care reform? This is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard yet about essentially needed health care reform, other than the insipid “death panel” charge–which many Republican congressmen voted FOR in the previous Medicare bill.

    Before you accuse, do research. Has there been any examiniation of this Humana letter for lies, inaccuracies or misinformation? For agency rules violations re: consumer rights? Or is this a knee-jerk reaction that bypassed all reasoned thinking?

    Does every corporation tell the absolute truth every time? (Well, look at advertising for a clue. Any 11-year-old can sift corporate bullcrap claims from the reality they see every day.)

    I trust my government less because of the revolving-door policy Bush and his cronies had with industry. But I trust Obama’s people-oriented administration more than I trust any corporation. (Van Jones, where are we now that we need you! Fight the power!)

    Also, let’s have some full disclosure: Mr. Jacobs, what are your ties–previous and current–to the insurance industry?

    Do you hold lucrative investments in insurance or those tied to health insurance or health care?

    Do you dare put your mouth where your money is so we can transparently see your motives here?

    Clues that Mr. Jacobs’ fears are hogwash:

    Clue 1) The phrase “effects of new reforms on their coverage would likely be.” Likely means this is conjecture and opinion.

    Opinions by corporations are put out to influence their customers. They are pushed only for the profit motive, since that is what corporations live for.

    Often they amount to fear-mongering with little regard for facts. If Humana is being punished for violating consumers rights to the truth, more power to the HHS!

    Thank God the Obama administration has some backbone and/or enough separation from the industry enough to not suck up their handouts at every turn!

    Slap Humana silly if they break the rules! But before you castigate them, Jacobs and Wall Street Journal, let’s examine the rules, and their purpose. (Something Bush never did–was it out of stupidity or corruption? I’ll never know.)

    No corporation or anyone else for that matter should lie and mislead in order to gain more profit. But it’s a typical corporate tactic that happens every day.

    The main fear Humana faces is that it won’t be able to compete against a public option in health care. That’s because there is too much waste, bloat and quite possibly corruption–surprise! not in government–but in corporations! It’s part of why our health care costs so much.

    Clue 2) Jacobs won’t publish this letter from Humana.

    Why not let us read the letter, instead of pushing disinformation second and third hand? Jacobs’ claims are called “hearsay,” and as such they are not allowed in courts of law as evidence for obvious reasons.

    2) Jacobs won’t publish the letter from Humana.

    Why not let us read the letter, instead of pushing disinformation second- and third-hand?

    Jacobs’ claims are “hearsay,” and as such they are not allowed in courts of law as evidence for obvious reasons. You should not believe them without independent research for the same reasons.

    “Big” government vs. bloated corporations:

    Your claim: “increased government has predictable consequences. We pay for big government in lost freedom as well as dollars.”

    Never was this more true with Bush and the bloated Iraq War, in which billions went to Halliburton with the infamous no-bid contract. (Oh, Cheney “happened” to be Halliburton’s ex-CEO.) Also with billions going to Blackwater, whose mercenaries, unchecked by military rules, got rich while beating and killing innocent Iraq civilians, including women and families.

    This is why Obama’s open government is so vital–to protect us from the cronyism and facism of Bush-Cheney and “Crook” Rumsfeld, perhaps the biggest inside operator ever in government history. (This greedy sicko pushed through aspartame approval even though 3 of 6 government scientists on the review panel said “no way!”)

    If big government is as wasteful and inept as conservatives often charge, why is a profitable corporation afraid of an alleged red-tape-strewn mess of an organization running away with their customers?

    Because the customers would be far better served, at a lower cost, with less red tape, and better coverage for all!

    That is what Humana fears: the public option will be a virtual copy of Medicare/Medicaid–which runs very well as operated by the government, with much less overhead than insurance companies and little cutting of the services people need.

    If capitalism has so much to fear from government-run agencies, doesn’t that mean the capitalist companies are so bloated and slow, with such poor service that that the government will outrun, out-serve and outperform them?

    There’s the death blow to capitalism, which serves 1% of the population VERY well, and the rest of us–well, good luck!

    Conclusion: the main thing we have to fear is big corporations, including Humana. This is especially true in health care and insurance, where sicker is better because it makes even sicker (in the head and heart) people lots of money.

    These vampires care more for profit than people, don’t want a lean mean government operation taking away their business and want to keep feeding their CEO his millions while cutting people off from the health care they need–so that they can make their bloated blood-soaked profit.

    That is sick.
    And we should all oppose it where-ever and whenever we see it.

    See Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” for an inside look at the bloated, sick capitalist system so many insipidly, causelessly revere, like so many sheep headed to slaughter.

    YOUR job is probably next on the chopping block, and if you lose it, so goes your health care.

    Oh–but not Mr. Jacobs’, whose job is secure so long as he keeps pushing fear over analysis and sucking in your conservative dollars like a…a…vampire? a corporation?

  12. ThinkLife says:

    I can clearly see the appeal to readers’ fears with a baseless, yet frightening assertion.

    The problem here is that the WSJ opinion cited does not develop or reveal enough information to support the point.

    It may be true, it may not be. But it’s impossible to tell as it’s written. It’s a pure propaganda piece with no meat.

    So why are you quoting it???

    That this drivel can get by college educated readers without much rebuttal is shocking and/or sad. (Maybe your readership isn’t educated…or very large?)

    Is it just me that notices this? Why are so many conservatives sorely lacking in the thinking department?

    Use facts and analysis, and your points will reveal themselves.

    Otherwise, you’re just mindlessly shouting. (Not to insult you if you don’t have the skills for expository writing, but…maybe that’s all you’re capable of??? )

  13. PTLA says:

    I do not know how real people can stand it: Mr. “ThinkLife” has a corner on drivel and pure psychological projection. He does not ThinkLife, but he sure needs to get one.

  14. ThinkLife says:

    PTLA (Perpetually Trolling Laughable Antagonist???),

    Sad that the blog author lets this kind of ad hominem drivel into what once was a constructive discussion.

    But…thanks, PTLA, for revealing yourself as the epitome of someone whom “this drivel can get by…without much rebuttal.”

    You’re IT!

    I don’t know whether your empty ad hominem abusive attack is worth a rebuttal–as it contains nothing more than your opinion–but I’ll do it anyway:

    Your reply has:

    – no facts, thus

    – no reality, therefore

    – no meaning, thus

    – no validity except pure, vacuous opinion–classic trollery.

    A challenge for you: dredge up a brain, apply expository and analytical skills, and report back–when you’re able to make sense.

    Again, slowly…and this is an edit to the previous suggestion: “Use facts and analysis, and your meaning will reveal itself.”

    It’s your complete failure to make a meaningful point that amuses me. How can you argue anything or persuade any reader without the esential skills?

    Oh, you did, see:

    “Hoo-ha, you’re full o’ drivel, smarteee-pants! Git a life!” quoth the high school hooligan. Er, troll.

    The troll posts a message, often in response to an honest question, that is intended to upset, disrupt or simply insult the group.

    Usually, it will fail, as the troll rarely bothers to match the tone or style of the group, and usually its ignorance shows.)

    Remember that trolls are cowards; they’ll usually post just enough to get an argument going, then sit back and count the responses (Yes, that’s what they do!).

    –“Internet Trolls” at http://www.flayme.com/troll/

    Does that sound like a plan, PTLA?

    Let’s predict your next knee-jerks:

    1) Ad hominem circumstantial and/or

    2) Ad hominem tu quoque.

    Why waste your time at the keyboard? Bask like a wannabe basilisk under your dreapy bridge. You are simply–yes, it was simple to do it–outgunned.

    Thanks for the laugh!

  15. ThinkLife says:

    Russell,

    Hmmm…let’s analyze our social-political-economic system for a minute. (Just a minute.)

    Auto deaths:
    Due to rampant pursuit of profit…resulting in destruction of America’s mass transit systems in the 1950s…and resulting in inadequate safety regulations (they sell cars with 3-out-of-5-star crash ratings, no?)…and allowing younger, less experienced drivers the responsibility of guiding a 1-ton “mobile assault weapon”…and pursuit of profit in alcohol sales…resulting in a “drinking is cool” advertising sensibility…as well as lower parental incomes–to boost corporate profits…resulting in parents working more hours…resulting in less community involvement with youth…and less mentoring and contact with responsible adults…and increased access to alcohol in the home for “ecreation”…all resulting in more numerous deaths that happen earlier here than in Europe.

    Gun deaths:
    Due to too many guns on the street…rampant pursuit of profit selling guns (a virtue, according to capitalist tenets)…strong demand for guns due to rampant of fear of violent crime and theft…due to increased poverty and desperation that leads some to drugs, theft and crime (we all need money, where to get it when jobs are few? training lacking? parenting, mentoring and career guidance missing? Fill a desire: to feel good”…with drugs–which require cash)…due to inadequate spending and care on parenting, mentoring, education and training…and inadequate opportunities for lower income people and minorities…resulting in domestic frustration, pain, anger and rage…all resulting in crime and greater violent deaths.

    So these problems really do come down to stratification of the classes (poorer/lower, partly educated/middle, highly educated/upper–generally speaking), rampant undemocratic capitalism leading to corporate vampirism on society–the very pursuit of which ultimately leads to the extra violence and death.

    RE: health care
    And–to add insult to injury–those most prone to suffer from the crimes have little or no access to health care, except in nonprofit hospital emergency rooms–the most expensive last resort that sucks the life-blood from the hospital system, raising costs for all of us.

    Solutions:
    Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” anyone?

    Are you ready for the revolution???

    I sure as hell am! Sell me a gun, fool–if you want to see the wrong end of the barrel!

    Metaphorically speaking, of course. This is a prediction, not a threat.

    Revolution is coming–but it’s up to all of us whether it turns violent or not. SHARE, rich brothers, and it won’t be!

    And of course, this speaks to the point again:

    The fallout of capitalism is pain, onerous struggle, poverty, crime and even death for too many–and vast riches beyond that of any ancient sultan for less than 1% of the population.

    Lotsa luck becoming one of the VERY few!

  16. ThinkLife summarizes: “Conclusion: the main thing we have to fear is big corporations,”

    I disagree. The main thing we have to fear is government regulation of corporations, because when government regulates corporations, corporations MUST influence government. When government has no power to regulate corporations, corporations have no choice but to make their customers happy, and the corporation that tries to influence government wastes its money.

    Free markets are the only way to keep your government honest.

  17. Must Corporations Be In Bed With Government?

    [A column on point]

    For Karl Marx one reason laissez-faire capitalism would not last is that he believed big corporations would always subvert governments. The idea in support of such an economic system is that government can and must stay out of economic affairs. Economics, for champions of the fully free market, should be like religion, completely separate from government. Only that way would there be a level playing field in the economy, at least as level as that is realistically possible. (Clearly some people are born more talented, of parents with more resources than others, with physical advantages others don’t have–so the idea of a completely level playing field is ridiculous.)

    But critics of capitalism maintain that this level playing field is impossible to obtain when big corporations can appeal for support from governments. After all, even the most fair minded politician in a democracy requires support so as to get elected to office. And big corporations are in a better position to supply such support that small shops, universities, or other special interest groups. Which means big corporations will always be able to gain unfair advantages from governments. And so there really is no hope for a system of pure laissez faire capitalism, a fully free market such as advocated by libertarians. Business will always have the government on its side with all the powers it can offer to help out.

    And this does sound like a good point. It is made these days by the likes of Ralph Nader, Michael Moore and others who claim that capitalism is inherently corrupt. Except for the fact that such a system is not actually a free market capitalist one, they are right. Once the government is legally allowed to accept favors from the citizenry, it is no big wonder that the richest of those citizens, mostly corporations, will be favored by governments. The task for those who support the idea of a genuine–bona fide free market, laissez faire–capitalist system is to establish legal bans against government and business coziness. Again, this is in principle akin to the ban on cozy church and state relations

    Is this some kind of pie in the sky aspiration, to have a system in which it is illegitimate for business and government to get into bed together? Well, it would appear to be difficult, of course, since corporations do have the resources to seek out government favors–although so do some other institutions, such as unions and universities. But just because they can, it doesn’t follow that they have to and will. Quite possibly laws and public policy can be established that make the ties between business and government illegal. What this requires is vigorous education, plain and simple, just as do all the provisions that make a political system less and less corrupt. Corruption is always a temptation and there is never any guarantee against it. All that is available to guard against corruption is citizenship vigilance and intelligence.

    But many difficult objectives have been achieved throughout human history, so why not this? Slavery, which is so tempting for some, got abolished. The military draft is gone, at least in America. There is a first amendment in the USA that prohibits government censorship and any religious influence in government. Such improvements, and many others that rendered legal systems more and more just, could be accomplished and have been, despite enormous resistance. So why not the separation between business and government?

    There is much to be said for such separation, even for big corporations–leaving them all to compete in a genuine free market without special help from government would seem to be something desirable all around. Yes, some will try to defeat that kind of system, thinking they can gain advantages not available to others. But over the long haul this is a myth. Corruption tends to undermine the whole system and produce harm to all those who are part of it, at least intermittently. So the case for cleaning up the system, for vigilant opposition to favoritism even when big powerful moneyed interest are vying for it, is a good one.

    So while it is undoubtedly true that freedom is always susceptible to being undermined, in the last analysis there really isn’t any better alternative. Such modern thinkers as John Maynard Keynes have tried to deny this–check out Keynes’ little 1926 book, The End of Laissez Faire–but they could present no alternative, nothing but the myth of the educated ruling elite. Yet throughout history this alternative has proven to be even more vulnerable to corruption than capitalism has ever been.

  18. Thoughtful debate is always good.

  19. […] The first casualty of war is truth. The first casualty of health care reform? Free speech. Continued here: The First Casualty of Health Care Reform […]

  20. […] small sample of control, in today’s America, is found in a recent action by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS prevented government-regulated insurance companies from advising policy holders of the ill […]

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