- Image by the U.S. Army, via Wikimedia Commons
- Smiling because he has good, taxpayer-funded health coverage. Doesn't care that you don't.
Full disclosure: I've had to tone down the language for this post several times before it was fit for publication.
Ignore all the news from the past year about the reprehensible conduct of WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurer based on enrollment.
Forget that a Reuters investigation recently found that the Indianapolis-based insurer was routinely targeting breast cancer patients for rescission.
Forget the insurer's attempt to raise rates as much as 39 percent in California.
Forget the 21 percent increase expected for Hoosiers next year (reports show some policy holders have identified increases as high as 50 percent).
For Mitch Daniels, playing the political tough guy is far more important.
The Indianapolis Star today reports that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wants Indiana and 13 other states to look closer at WellPoint's rate increases, in the wake of the California debacle.
"In light of this recent finding, I urge that, to the extent you have authority to do so, you re-examine any WellPoint rate increases in your state to determine whether any mistaken assumptions similar to those made in California were made in your state," Sebelius wrote to the governors. "Even small errors can mean unaffordable premiums for policyholders."
Seems prudent, given WellPoint's recent track record. Seems also like the right thing to do for government, which possesses powers the average consumer does not for defending against corporate malfeasance.
Daniels' response? Hope you're sitting down.
Gov. Daniels does not plan on responding to the letter, according to Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman.
"When we feel the need for advice about health-care costs, we won't start with the people who just passed this disastrously expensive and backward federal legislation," Daniels said in a statement e-mailed by Jankowski.
The Star characterized Daniels' response as "a cool reception." But this goes well beyond "cool." It is flippant, arrogant and puerile at best: blatantly disrespectful to the responsible, premium-paying citizens he's been elected to protect — people who exemplify those principles of self-reliance Daniels ostensibly claims to espouse.
The idea that the Daniels administration would forgo a closer look at WellPoint's actions — for political gain, or from fear of the power wielded by the corporate behemoth locally — is unfair to the people of Indiana, who may be overpaying on premiums, and whose tax dollars have already gone to incentivize WellPoint's local operations. It's also unconscionable from a leader whose primary concern should be the welfare of his constituents.
Daniels' blatant disrespect for the public trust that put him in the governor's mansion — which we'll assume is rather comfortable and comes with great health benefits — isn't just unacceptable. It's an outrage.