Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Finds Widespread Misconduct In Selling of Medicare Advantage Plans

Early this morning I had my most recent post on the Medicare Advantage plans, noting “The plans engage in misleading sales tactics to get seniors to sign up without realizing what they are doing.” Later in the morning I had two different patients come into the office who told of getting signed up for Medicare Advantage plans, thinking they just signing up for a prescription drug program. As I noted earlier, the Medicare Advantage plans are a form of corporate welfare in which the Bush administration has repaid the insurance industry for their contributions by providing massive subsidies to care for Medicare patients beyond what it takes to care for the patients in the government run program.

This afternoon I found that the Oklahoma insurance commissioner is looking into misconduct by Humana in the selling of the Medicare Advantage plans, citing widespread misconduct. Replicating the same story I am frequently hearing from patients, the story reports that “some agents had enrolled Medicare recipients in Humana products that ‘they did not understand and did not want.'” The report sounded quite familiar:

Oklahoma investigators found that some people who wanted to buy just drug coverage from Humana were instead enrolled in “an unwanted plan,” a comprehensive Medicare Advantage plan. The investigators’ report said it appeared that some agents had used “bait-and-switch tactics to secure the initial invitation” into the homes of Medicare beneficiaries, The Times reported.

In its report, the Oklahoma Insurance Department also found that Humana gave agents a strong incentive to sell Medicare Advantage plans, typically paying a commission of $250 for each sale, five times as much as the commission for selling a prescription drug plan, and the company did not maintain a complete record of complaints from Medicare beneficiaries, as required under Oklahoma law.

Farewell to Stars Hollow


Tonight, sadly, will be our last visit to Stars Hollow, which ranks with Cicely, Alaska and Stuckeyville, Ohio among the top quirky fictional towns to live in. After seven years, Gilmore Girls will have its final episode tonight. There is some irony in having the show end as the Republicans debate. While I’ve had previous posts on the show, and Amy Sherman-Palladino’s amazing dialog, on blogs before Liberal Values, my first post on the show here was in August. The Washington Post had run a story on the declining support for Republicans in the Northeast. I used Stars Hollow as an example of a Northeast town where George Bush is disliked, quoting from Lorelei Gilmore:


Lorelei has been blunt about her feelings about George Bush. “I hate President Bush! He’s stupid, and his face is too small for his head. I just want to toss him out.” She also shares our fears over the erosion of civil liberties. She saw an analogy to contemporary American when putting a leash on her dog (Friday Night Is All Right For Fighting):

Oh, he’s perfectly fine with having his personal freedoms slowly stripped away, as long as he’s completely unaware that it’s happening. Just like a true American.

Lorelai’s parents identify more with the Bush Administration (Fight Face):

Richard: I should tell Scooter Libby about this. I keep forgetting I know a man on the inside. I’ll give him a call.
Emily: Before an indictment comes down.

Lorelai rejects her rich parents, and identifies George Bush with them. When she came into some money (Happy Birthday, Baby) her views were apparent. “Seventy-five thousand dollars. I feel so rich. And suddenly in complete agreement with everything Bush has to say.”

Lorelei has also influenced the way in which her daughter Rory sees Republicans (One’s Got Class and the Other One Dyes):

Lorelai: So, I think I’m in touch with the other side.
Rory: The other side of. . .
Lorelai: The other side.
Rory: With Republicans?

The final season, without Amy Sherman-Palladino, was disappointing at times, but it was far better than not being able to vist Stars Hollow at all. The post discussed above also included previous posts on Gilmore Girls from earlier blogs. Under the fold I’ll repost one of these–an article from Esquire on why Gilmore Girls is the best show on television for men.

Update: The Finale


Jerry Falwell Dies

Jerry Falwell has died at age 73. It is at times like this that I wish that Dante’s Inferno was non-fiction, and that we could find out which circle of Hell he wound up in. Rather than worrying about whether it is proper to detail the sins of such an evil person so soon after his death, I will refer readers to The Carpetbagger Report where Steve Benen has docmented Falwell’s life and words.

Posted in In The News, Religion. 1 Comment »

The Maxim Hot 100: Lindsay Lohan Tops List, Beats Mitt Romney in Unfavorability

Maxim’s Hot 100 list has been released. Some of the women on the shows followed in our television posts are included:

Yunjin Kim (Lost) 98
Ivanka Trump (The Apprentice) 83
Evangeline Lilly (Lost) 68
Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) 57
Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars) 46
Moon Bloodgood (Daybreak) 40
Jennifer Garner (Alias) 35
Elisha Cuthbert (24) 25
Ali Larter (Heroes) 6
Jessica Alba (Sin City, Dark Angel) 2

And the winner is Lindsay Lohan, who is being compared to Mitt Romney in other reports. (Comments on a recent post look at the question of whether Romney is hot.) Fewer people know who Mitt Romney is than know who Lindsay Lohan is. The two have similar favorability (in the 20s), but Lohan has almost double the unfavorability rating (41% vs. 22%). I could bring in Lohan’s Disney connection, such as with the remake of Parent Trap. There’s even a fantasy film connection, even if weak, with Freaky Friday as well as a connection with politcal movies in Bobby. But we all know that Lindsay Lohan’s is primarily known for her inability to keep her clothes totally on in public.

(Updated Warning: Viewing of this picture might subject you to reprimand from the Thought Police at The Democratic Daily. View this photo, and think for yourself, at your own risk.)

Obama Blasts Medicare Advantage Plans

Barack Obama, while campaigning in Iowa, has spoken out against the Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage is part one of the corporate welfare provisions in George Bush’s Medicare plan which provides subsidies to insurance companies to treat Medicare patients. Despite cherry picking the healthiest patients, it is significantly more expensive to treat Medicare patients under these plans. The plans engage in misleading sales tactics to get seniors to sign up without realizing what they are doing. The Des Mones Register reports:

The nation must stop health insurance companies from defrauding senior citizens, presidential candidate Barack Obama told residents in Des Moines on Friday.

The Illinois senator’s remarks came in response to a recent study and a government report that conclude Medicare’s private plan alternative – called Medicare Advantage – costs taxpayers more money, can increase premiums paid by seniors and, in some cases, has left people to find they do not have a doctor who accepts the coverage in their area.

The study, done by George Washington University professor Brian Biles, estimates that the average Medicare Advantage client will cost taxpayers $1,074 more in 2007.

The program was designed to reduced costs, largely through increased competition.

Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent group that advises Congress, recently reported that the government pays 12 percent more on average to private Medicare plans than to treat comparable beneficiaries through traditional Medicare.

Elimination of excessive subsidies to the program would save nearly $150 billion in 10 years, which could improve total Medicare coverage and lower prescription drug costs, Obama said.

“The reason we don’t do something like that is because we are not setting the agenda in Washington – the insurance companies and the drug companies are,” Obama said. “And that’s what people want to turn the page on. They want a system that’s sensible and fair to everybody.”

Other deleterious affects of Bush’s Medicare plans has been the prescription drug plan which is designed more to channel money to hte pharmaceutical companies than to provide true prescription drug coverage, and annual increases in the Medicare deductible.

Related Post: Medicare Disadvantage

Considering A Third Party Campaign

All the talk of a third party candidate running in 2008 is becoming more and more compelling as I remain dissatisfied with the Democratic field and the Republican choices appear far worse. The majority view in the liberal blogosphere is that the collapse of the Republican Party is a good thing because it greatly enhances the chances for total Democratic control of the government. The minority view, which I personally hold is that the collapse of the Republican Party is partially a bad thing because it greatly enhances the chances for total Democratic control of the government. The ultimate principle in politics is that power corrupts. After the breakdown of the checks and balances on power under Republican rule, we need to reestablish these limitations on power, not shift power entirely to another party.

The problem is that the Republicans, under the domination of the religious right and the neocons, has shown itself to be incompetent at governing. This has led to problems including weakening of our ability to fight terrorism, including terrorist states such as Iran and North Korea, the inability to respond to the destruction of Katrina, the worsening crisis in health care, and a government which ignores science whenever the facts differs from the ideology of the ruling party. While restoration of a viable two party system is desirable as a check on power, the current Republican Party is unfit to be part of that system.

The solution might come from all the recent talk of third parties. Frequently third parties exert their influence by forcing a major party to adopt their platform to survive. A third party might place needed pressure on the Republican Party to change its course. I am hopeful that either control of the Republican Party will change in order to avoid becoming a party limited to the deep south, or that the Republicans will be replaced by a new party.

Much of the speculation lately has centered around Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel. Bloomberg has fueled speculation that he is planning to run, between his recent diner with Hagel and reopening his web site. While still a long shot, Bloomberg just might be able to make it competitive. A poll from the New York Daily News shows that New Yorkers prefer Bloomberg over Giuliani for President 46% to 29%. This is very similar to a Quinnipiac Poll from March. Bloomberg has indicated that if he runs he will be running to win, and is willing to put out the resources which just might make this possible. The Washington Times reports he is willing to spend one billion dollars of his own money on a Presidential bid.

If Bloomberg is paying, it seems safe to assume he plans to top the ticket. He might have a potential running mate lined up in Chuck Hagel. On Face the Nation, Hagel indicated his dissatisfaction with the current Republican leadership. “I am not happy with the Republican Party today,” Hagel said. “It’s been hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors.” He also hinted that he might consider teaming up with Bloomberg when he said, “It’s a great country to think about – a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.” While I would not support a ticket with Hagel on top, his opposition to the war makes it tolerable to consider him as VP if this makes a third party bid more viable. Hagel’s experience would help balance a ticket headed by a former Democrat without foreign policy or Washington experience. In future years, this could turn into a new model for GOP leadership to replace the religious right and neocons.

As a third party they’d be a long shot, but the collapse of the Republican Party even makes victory for a third party a remote possibility. Such a ticket would be far preferable to anything which the GOP is likely to offer. It might even be preferable to a Democratic ticket if the third party takes a socially liberal, fiscally conservative course while opposing the Iraq War. I would certainly pay attention to such a ticket during the campaign, as well as look further into Bloomberg’s record and views. I already know of some areas of disagreement with Bloomberg, but this also true of the other choices. It is far too early to make any decisions, but at this point I’d lean towards a Bloomberg/Hagel ticket over both the probable Republican candidates as well as a Democratic ticket headed by Hillary Clinton or John Edwards.