Waxman Cancels Healthcare Show Trial

Health insurance company CEOs will apparently be spared the public thrashing planned for April 21 by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Hollywood). Waxman notified committee members of the cancellation in a memo released Wednesday.

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The memo implies that the companies which had been asked to appear – Verizon, Caterpillar, AT&T and Deere & Co. – were being less critical of the new healthcare law, but there is nothing to support that implication.

The memo says that, “…several companies and their representatives expressed the view that the new law could have beneficial impacts on large employers if implemented properly.” But the memo appears to back away from the accusatory letters and press releases which preceded it.

The hearing – the sort of public lashing that the Energy and Commerce Committee became famous for under Waxman’s predecessor, John Dingell (D-Mi) – was called because Waxman wanted to bash the companies for making (legally-required) financial disclosures of huge expected losses to be incurred due to Obamacare. (Caterpillar alone expected to lose $100 million in 2010, according to its financial filings).

In his demand letter, Waxman had demanded that the companies produce an enormous quantity of potentially proprietary (and some legally-privileged) documents. This demand was apparently canceled along with the hearing.

Before the hearing was announced, the Energy Committee’s ranking Republican, Joe Barton of Texas, took to the floor to denounce Waxman’s intimidation tactics. He condemned the April 21 hearing and Waxman’s announced investigation into the American Farm Bureau’s opposition to the global warming tax “cap and trade” legislation Waxman’s committee has passed. Barton accused Waxman of using his power to intimidate Americans out of using their First Amendment rights, and suggested that Waxman’s actions should be investigated.

And, equally revealing, is the staff memo which accompanies Waxman’s announcement.

That memo says that the committee’s staff investigators found that the companies had followed the law by filing the loss reports Waxman wanted to attack.

We don’t yet know whether the companies did as I suggested in my original piece on these hearings and refuse to produce privileged or proprietary information. If they did, they should be congratulated. Waxman never wanted to find fact, only to bash the healthcare heretics and score soundbites on the evening news.

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