One of the country’s largest health insurers, Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, is enlisting its employees in its campaign about health care reform. According to Talking Points Memo, the company’s advocacy hotline is helping employees write notes to members of Congress and, in at least one case, a hotline operator encouraged a caller to attend tea parties.

Last week, UnitedHealth sent a letter to employees urging them to call the company’s United for Health Reform Advocacy Hotline, where specialists could help workers “personalize your message” about health care reform and connect them to congressional offices. TPM reports that an individual insured by UnitedHealth Group called the line and was encouraged to attend a tea party and directed to a listing of events hosted by the rightwing America’s Independent Party.

The company is involved in the health care debate in another way. A company it owns, the Lewin Group, is often cited for research on health insurance costs and coverage, but rarely is UnitedHealth’s ownership (via their subsidiary Ingenix) mentioned in the media. In the past 24 hours, seven news stories or op-eds at Google News cited the Lewin Group’s statistics on health care reform; of those, only three — including our sister site, the Colorado Independent — mentioned that the consulting group is owned by UnitedHealth.

The group is said to operate independently from the parent company. Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Lewin Group was “accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the ‘reasonable and customary’ doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.”

UnitedHealth ended up settling, paying $50 million to the New York attorney general and $350 million to the AMA.


So the United Health Group afraid of losing the debate, has asked the Senate finance committee to let them have a 35% return in profits from each and every insurance policy. so you thought credit card companies wanted to sock it to you.