For years, the health insurance industry, led by AHIP, has tried to foment a senior revolt to head off any attempts in Washington to trim back billions in outrageous industry Medicare Advantage subsidies provided by the Bush administration. AHIP created its own "grassroots" group
, "The Coalition for Medicare Choice" offering free lunches and door prizes at "community meetings" designed to convince seniors that Congress wants to "take away your Medicare".
Now it appears this Astroturf lobbying campaign has reached a new low...sending letters to the editor from seniors without their knowledge.
The New Bedford Eagle-Tribune
in Massachusetts reports on three fake letters it received:
"Some of those seniors are unaware that they have sent any such letters to newspapers. Some of them hadn't even heard of Medicare Advantage. ‘I did not write a letter to the editor. It's not from me,' said Gloria Gosselin, 75, of Lawrence. Gosselin's name was on one of three strikingly similar letters touting the Medicare Advantage program that were sent to The Eagle-Tribune. Writers of letters to the editor are routinely contacted by newspapers to make sure letters are legitimate. In this case, they weren't. All three of the purported authors of the letters said they had no idea their names were being used to advocate for the health insurance program. The letters were, in fact, composed and sent by the Boston office of a national political consulting firm attempting to create the appearance of a ‘grass-roots' movement for Medicare Advantage."
A quick Google search shows a number of similar letters did make it to print in papers nationwide, large and small. How many are real? Who knows. But when you look at the history of Medicare Advantage
's creation, its marketing abuses
, rising premiums
and out of pocket costs, this Astroturf campaign can't be too surprising from an industry pulling out all the stops to preserve it's profitable government subsidies.
The Obama administration is right to go after these outrageous industry overpayments
which will cost Medicare$150 billion over ten years, shave almost two years from Medicare's solvency, and force all beneficiaries (not just those enrolled in MA plans) to pay $36 per year in higher premiums.
These subsidies should be repealed and the savings reinvested in traditional Medicare to improve coverage for 44 million Americans. That's a true grassroots effort that seniors have supported and will continue to support without free meals, fake letters and Astroturf campaigns.