What to do when the The Wall Street Journal attacks? Get some op-ed space
in the publication and fight back. That, at least, appears
to be Kathleen Sebelius's strategy. Sebelius is the Secretary of Health
and Human Services, and is none too pleased at having her "department
... accused of 'thuggery' ... and 'Soviet tyranny.'" In the Journal's
defense, of course, and as Sebelius admits, that last one was from Newt
Gingrich, not, as the first one was, from the Journal's editorial page.
"What prompted these accusations? The fact," explains Sebelius, "that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable." She follows this up by going on the attack:
In Sebelius's view, "our insurance markets have failed Americans time and time again," as she saw while governor of Kansas. Meanwhile, "we are already seeing this new level of accountability pay off," for example with a one-time refund to a number of Blue Cross Blue Shield customers. A day after this was announced, "seniors with private Medicare plans got some news that most Americans haven't heard in years: Their premiums will actually go down 1% next year, even as many of them enjoy better benefits."
There's a long history of special interests using similar attacks to oppose change. In the mid-1960s, for example, some claimed Medicare would put our country on the path to socialism.
But what is really objectionable about these comments is not who they're attacking, but what they're defending. These critics seem to believe that any oversight of the insurance industry is too much, and that consumers would be better off in a system where they have few rights or protections.
In other words, recent attacks on the Affordable Care Act don't seem to hold water, argues Sebelius.
The Affordable Care Act is bringing some basic fairness to our health insurance market. So when I learned that a handful of insurers around the country are blaming their significant rate increases on the new law--even though the facts show that the impact of the law on premiums is small, just 1% to 2% declining over time--I let them know that we'd be closely reviewing their rate hikes.