WASHINGTON – A former high-ranking Clinton administration official and law partner with Hillary Clinton sees potential political disaster for Democrats in 2014 over Obama administration health-care policies.
But it’s not just Obamacare that has Webb Hubbell, former chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and associate attorney general of the U.S., concerned about the political fortunes of his party. It’s what he calls “tinkering with Medicare, the tried and true social insurance program that so many older Americans rely on – which so many future older Americans will rely on, too.”
“You have to wonder why the administration would hand the Republicans such a gift,” he writes in a commentary piece in WND today.
What concerns Hubbell, who served 21 months in prison in the 1990s after pleading guilty to federal charges of overbilling clients at the Rose Law Firm where he was partnered with Hillary Clinton and Vince Foster, is a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to allow insurance companies to limit Medicare coverage for certain classes of drugs, including anti-rejection medications for transplant patients and medications to treat depression and schizophrenia in the elderly.
“The proposal isn’t based on a needs analysis but on an actuarial cost study that has drug companies, patient advocates and both Democrats and Republicans in Congress all up in arms,” says Hubbell. “And when Republicans and Democrats agree on anything, we all stand up and take notice.”
Hubbell says he is concerned personally about the idea because he is covered by Medicare, is a transplant survivor and takes anti-rejection medication every day.
“So my antennae naturally went up when an article appeared in the New York Times with the headline ‘Plan to Limit Some Drugs in Medicare Is Criticized.’ After reading the article and doing my research I came to the conclusion that HHS ‘has now gone to meddling.’”
Hubbell’s research shows the administration’s plan has to do with cost and reducing drug overuse. DHHS cites a 2008 actuarial study stating that the six protected classes accounted for 17 to 33 percent of drug spending.
“Apparently money trumps well-informed, accepted and successful medical care even if it undermines ‘a key protection for some of the sickest, most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries,’” he writes. “The administration’s other rationale is reduction of overuse. When it comes to anti-rejection drugs, for example, it’s hard to see the logic. Such medications limit one’s immune system; the higher the dosage, the more unlikely one’s system can combat other diseases. Trust me, no transplant patient wants to take more anti-rejection medication than absolutely necessary. And we already have a wide variety of safeguards, including criminal penalties, to protect against the over-prescribing or abuse of anti-psychotic drugs. To deny coverage for drugs like Wellbutrin and Prozac to treat depression in the elderly, merely to prevent a potential for abuse, makes no medical or practical sense at all.”
Hubbell says the administration’s proposal “isn’t supported by any research suggesting that it isn’t medically necessary to require mandatory insurance coverage for these three protected classes. The only people who seem to be for this rule are the administration – and the insurance companies who stand to save money. To deny medical coverage for purely economic reasons invokes the fear many citizens have of government-sponsored health care.”
“Here’s another reason to dump this proposal: It could cost the Democrats control of the Senate and even more losses in the House.” he says. “Republicans are already telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is ‘raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare.’ What will happen when Republican strategists figure out that the popular Medicare Part D is being altered to take life-saving medications from the disabled and elderly – just to save insurance companies money? I bet you can hear the train wreck.”
Hubbell has a new novel coming out in May – “When Men Betray,” a political thriller about the murder of a U.S. senator in cold blood on live television. He writes a daily meditation at The Hubbell Pew.
While he no longer practices law, Hubbell is an author, lecturer and consultant. He also served as mayor of Little Rock from 1979 until 1982.
After Hubbell resigned as the third ranking official in the U.S. Justice Department and before his indictment, he received legal consulting contracts for $450,000 from various clients including $100,000 from the Chinese-connected Indonesian Riady family and $62,755 from Revlon at the recommendation of Clinton confidant and political fixer Vernon Jordan. This became the focus of an investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Starr found Hubbell “did little or no work for the money paid by his consulting clients,” but determined there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the money was intended to influence Hubbell’s cooperation with investigators in the Whitewater investigation.
Hubbell dropped nearly 100 pounds while he was in prison. He subsequently became the author of the non-fiction work “Friends in High Places” and the soon-to-be-released novel “When Men Betray.” He writes regularly for the Clyde Fitch Report.