Group: Insurers Urged Workers To Fight Reform

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NEW YORK, NY — A consumer group says health insurers UnitedHealth and
WellPoint pressured their employees to contact members of Congress and
lobby against health care reform proposals that the companies disagreed

In a letter to California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the
group Consumer Watchdog maintains both companies violated state labor
laws. The group said Brown should investigate the insurers based on
comments they sent to employees last month, while Congress was in
recess and debate about health care reform was highly publicized.

The Attorney General’s office said it is reviewing the letter.

one e-mail, Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. said
workers looking to get in touch with elected officials could get help
from "advocacy specialists." It said employees might be contacted about
the issue during business hours.

WellPoint Inc., a Blue
Cross/Blue Shield operator based in Indianapolis, said most of the
proposed health care legislation was not responsible or sustainable.
Its e-mail asserted that the laws could cause tens of millions of
Americans to lose private health coverage and end up in a
government-run insurance plan. Other consequences could include limited
choice for customers, and increased premiums for those with private
coverage due to new mandates and coverage requirements, it said.

companies run their own advocacy groups — UnitedHealth’s United for
Health Reform, and WellPoint’s Health Action Network. United’s e-mail
said United for Health Reform may contact employees, and specialists
would be available to help the workers craft letters to their

"By working with an advocacy specialist to
personalize your message, you can quickly and easily add your voice to
this historic debate," the e-mail says. The letter advises employees to
attend a town hall meeting, and encourages respectful and constructive

WellPoint said Wednesday it has not been contacted by the Attorney General’s office and has not seen any complaint.

believe it is important and permissible to provide up to date
information about health reform to our associates," spokeswoman Cheryl
Leamon said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

responding to a request for comment, referred to its statement last
month saying it had not encouraged employees to attend "anti-reform
rallies." The company said it had only provided workers with
information so they could contact elected officials or attend town
halls if they chose to do so.

"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," the company wrote on Aug. 20.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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