Did Health Insurers Lean On Their Employees To Lobby Congress — On Work Time?

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It’s one thing to see a rowdy health care town hall meeting on TV. It’s another to have your boss tell you to go to one. Or write your Congressman about health care.

Yet that’s what Consumer Watchdog — a SoCal uh, consumer watchdog — is alleging that two major health insurers have done to their charges.
On Wednesday they asked California Attorney General Jerry Brown to take a moment out from denying that he’s running for governor to investigate whether United Healthcare and Wellpoint have violated the California Labor Code with their entreaties. The AG’s Christine Gasparac told us Wednesday: "We are currently reviewing the letter."

The Watchdogs point to an email United Healthcare sent to employees saying if they needed help contacting Congress the company would send an "advocacy specialist" to help them.

Said the Watchdogs: "Both companies are urging their employees to lobby members of Congress and offering corporate assistance in doing so, including talking points and even the placing of phone calls for the employees."

The Wellpointers sent a note to employees saying: "Please make your voice heard on this important issue by writing Congress and encouraging your elected officials to get health reform done — and done right — by acting in a bipartisan fashion to make health care more affordable, improve quality, and cover all Americans in a sustainable way."

Translation of "done right"? Apparently it does not include a public plan, according to the Wellpointers. That’s because a public plan would act as competition to private plans, as proponents say.

Said the Watchdogs about the Wellpoint letter: "The message, by claiming that ‘tens of millions of Americans’ would lose private insurance coverage and ‘end up in a government-run plan,’ also implies that employees would lose their jobs if proposed national reforms are passed."

United Healthcare — through a spokesman — denied all this to us as "completely false and untrue. We have stressed repeatedly that we strongly support bipartisan reform efforts to modernize health care and improve access to quality care on a sustainable basis for all Americans. We have made information available to employees for them to participate, voluntarily, only in publicly-announced Congressional town hall meetings, or to write or call their elected officials."
A Wellpoint flak said they hadn’t seen the complaint — and didn’t respond after I forwarded Consumer Watchdog’s missive to them. Nonetheless, the flak said: "We believe it is important and permissible to provide up to date information about health reform to our associates."

Next move is up to the AG.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
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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