Friday, December 11, 2009

Insurance Coalition Bribes Internet Users To Oppose Health Bills

HuffingtonPost — Internet users looking for gift cards and other free merchandise are being steered to Web pages inviting them to send e-mails to Congress expressing their views on President Barack Obama's push to reshape the country's health system.

In one instance, people looking for rewards are taken to a Web page run by Get Health Reform Right, a coalition of 10 insurance industry groups that opposes Obama's health overhaul effort. That page lets opponents of the Democratic drive quickly generate a letter to their member of Congress expressing their view.

In another, those applying for gifts can end up on the Web page of the American Medical Association's Patients' Action Network, where they can express support to lawmakers for expanding health care coverage.

The ads could give the impression that someone has to send an e-mail to Congress to get free goods. But based on fine print appearing in the ads, it appears sending the e-mails is optional and would not affect whether people receive the gifts they are seeking.

The ads attracting letter writers with incentives, first reported by, were provided to a reporter by Dan Porter, CEO of OMGPOP, a company that runs a Web site that combines multiplayer Internet games with social networking.

The ads are aimed at people seeking a reward, such as a gift certificate to a retail chain, that they would receive after providing their e-mail addresses and other information. Such ads could also be aimed at people who play online games and would like to earn virtual currency they can use to purchase items they can use in games, Porter said.

After people provide information about themselves, they are taken to a series of Web sites that ask them questions. One of the pages asks people if they want to "tell Congress to get health reform right!" If they check "yes," they are taken to, where they can quickly send a prewritten e-mail to their member of Congress expressing opposition to a government-run insurance plan. Another asks people to answer "yes" or "no" to the statement, "Now is the time to make your voice heard on health system reform."

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