Consumer Group Accuses Wellpoint and UnitedHealth Group of ‘Illegal Coercion’

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SANTA MONICA, CA — Nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Consumer Watchdog, has written California Attorney General Jerry Brown to request an investigation into certain actions by two health care providers, which the group accuses of "illegal coercion under the California Labor Code."

Consumer Watchdog said Wellpoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group are "urging their employees to lobby members of Congress with corporate assistance, including talking points and even placing of phone calls for the employees" in regards to health care reform. The group said "while coercive communications with employees may be legal," the state labor code "appears to directly prohibit it."

The letter to Brown, signed by Judy Dugan, research director, includes excerpts from letters from Wellpoint and UnitedHealth to employees, urging them to contact Congress.

In a statement UnitedHealth Group said Consumer Watchdog’s assertions that the company has encouraged employees "are completely false and particularly disappointing, as we have been one of the biggest proponents for modernizing our health care system. We have stressed repeatedly that we strongly support bipartisan reform to modernize health care and improve access to quality care on a sustainable basis for all Americans."

The company said it made information available for employees to voluntarily attend Congressional town hall meetings or contact elected officials but not on behalf of the company.

"As our CEO wrote to all employees, ‘We encourage you to continue to lend your practical know-how and point of view to the health care reform debate, as always, in a respectful and collegial manner that elevates the discussion and that is consistent with the social values we hold as a company… we have to listen closely to the people we serve and work together with them,’" continued UnitedHealth Group’s statement.

A spokesperson for Wellpoint could not immediately be reached.

Contact the author Chad Hemenway, associate editor, at: [email protected]

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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