Last week, I wrote about the threat from Kathleen Sebelius to lock out insurers who dared to dissent from the official ObamaCare line of lower costs and bigger benefits for all.  Today, both Michael Barone and the Wall Street Journal attack the White House and Sebelius for their “thuggery” in attempting to silence straightforward and rational criticisms as well as perfectly predictable increases in premium rates from accelerated mandates.  Barone calls this an example of “gangster government“:

And there’s a threat. “We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: Those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.”

That’s a significant date, the first year in which state insurance exchanges are slated to get a monopoly on the issuance of individual health insurance policies. Sebelius is threatening to put health insurers out of business in a substantial portion of the market if they state that Obamacare is boosting their costs.

“Congress shall make no law,” reads the First Amendment, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

Sebelius’ approach is different: “zero tolerance” for dissent.

The threat to use government regulation to destroy or harm someone’s business because they disagree with government officials is thuggery. Like the Obama administration’s transfer of money from Chrysler bondholders to its political allies in the United Auto Workers, it is a form of gangster government.

The WSJ puts its objections to Sebelius’ “thuggery” in an editorial today:

Witness Kathleen Sebelius’s Thursday letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group—a thuggish message even by her standards. The Health and Human Services secretary wrote that some insurers have been attributing part of their 2011 premium increases to ObamaCare and warned that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”

Zero tolerance for expressing an opinion, or offering an explanation to policyholders? They’re more subtle than this in Caracas. …

This is nasty stuff and an obvious attempt to shift political blame for rising insurance costs before the election. It’s also an early sign of life under ObamaCare, when all health-care decisions are political and the bureaucrats decide who can charge how much for a service or product.

The WSJ offers an explanation of this reaction, which is that the Obama administration clearly doesn’t understand risk pools.  When one increases the cost in risk pools, premiums go up.  Imposing new mandates on coverage increases costs.  What’s so difficult to understand about these premium increases?

Nothing, if one understands the industry and its pricing mechanisms, which the White House obviously does not.  They do, however, understand the political costs of rising premiums in the wake of ObamaCare’s passage, and they are using political intimidation to prevent the damage.  They have no other way to react; they have locked themselves into a corner with ObamaCare, and contra Nancy Pelosi, the more this rolls out, the more people will understand that the White House has created another way for health costs to go up without delivering better care.

Yes, this is thuggery, but in a free-market system, it would be an empty threat.  This is precisely the reason why government should not run private-sector industries — the management of these systems becomes political rather than fiduciary or achievement based.  And it’s started already.