Big Insurance Companies Have Absolutely No Shame

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ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. 

I told you you can’t trust these guys. Big insurance companies have absolutely no shame. They’re going to do anything they possibly can to kill reform.

Now, check this out.

UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest insurer, is pressuring employees to do their dirty work for them and lobby Congress against the Senate health care bill. Consumer Watchdog says the e-mail sent to employees are full of misleading GOP talking points such as the claim that millions of Americans will lose coverage.

They also say the campaign amounts to intimidation of employees of United Health Group, and its main operating division, UnitedHealthcare. And UnitedHealth isn’t alone in its dirty tactics.

Joining me now is Judy Dugan. She is the research director for Consumer Watchdog organization.

Judy, good to have you with us tonight.

What are they telling the employees to do? And is this a directive?

JUDY DUGAN, CONSUMER WATCHDOG: It’s phrased as a directive in one way, but then at the end of the message, what they do is say, well, of course, this is completely voluntary. Except the employees know that the company has full access
to their e-mail, they can tell whether they sent the directed e-mail to a senator or not. They can tell if the employee may have changed the message.

Of course it’s pressure, no matter what they say about it being voluntary.

SCHULTZ: Seventy-five thousand employees work at this company. They’re the number one insurance provider for insurance in this country.

What if the employees don’t do this?

DUGAN: We don’t have any evidence of them — of any punishment for people not doing it, but there is a sense of pressure there, a sense of, if you don’t do this, you’re not on our team, we really need this, we are in favor of very good health care and we want you to help us get there. Of course, what they’re trying to do is tell the employees to say to their senator, you know, a public option would be terrible. It’s government-run health care and it will cause millions of people to lose their insurance.

SCHULTZ: Are they really GOP talking points? How do you know they’re GOP talking points?

DUGAN: Well, you just Google it and you see where the quotes that they’re using will turn up. And it turns up on sort of hit blogs, not in the general conversation. These are obvious talking points that are passed around on the major political blogs.

SCHULTZ: Have you ever seen this before in your research on what companies do and how they try to fight legislation? Is this another day at the office for the way things work in Washington?

DUGAN: Well, I think it’s a little more extreme than most companies would dare to do. And, in fact, we think what they’re doing is probably illegal in California, possibly in Connecticut and a couple other states. But yes, I have seen it with energy companies. For instance, Exxon has organized big pep rallies of their employees to oppose any legislation on global warming.

SCHULTZ: OK. Judy, thanks for your time tonight. I appreciate it very much.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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