Commentary: McConnell jumps to Humana's defense

The health care debate sparked an uncharacteristic display of passion by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week, according to national news accounts.

Was the normally unruffled McConnell upset because 205,000 more Kentuckians lack health insurance now than in 1999?

No. As far as we know, McConnell has yet to say anything about recent census estimates that show the number of uninsured Kentuckians had increased to 682,000 last year, or 16 percent of the state's population.

McConnell was steamed (to use the New York Times' phrase) because his hometown insurance giant, Humana, was ordered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cease sending mailers to its Medicare customers warning of benefit cuts if Congress enacts proposed health care reforms.

The mailers also encouraged people to urge their representatives in Congress to support Medicare Advantage, a program that has been very profitable for Humana but unnecessarily costly to taxpayers.

McConnell sprang to Humana's defense, deploring what he called a "gag order" and threatening to hold up confirmation of appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services unless the order was rescinded. What's at stake, McConnell declared, is nothing less than the "core of the First Amendment's protection of speech."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.