Talking Points Memo is reporting that Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group’s advocacy hotline is directing employees to participate in the “tea parties” that have been in the news.
A document obtained by TPM shows the extent to which the advocacy team will assist employees and insured members, including advice on writing letters to Congress and talking points for town hall meetings. Read it here.
According to TPM, “… a source who’s insured by UHG — and who also obtained the letter — called the hotline on Tuesday and says the company directed him to an events list hosted by the right wing America’s Independent Party, and suggested he attend an anti-health-care-reform tea party sponsored by religious fundamentalist Dave Daubenmire, scheduled for today outside the office of Blue Dog Rep. Zack Space (D-OH).”
UnitedHealth spokesman John Parker said this evening that the TPM report is inaccurate. “We have never encouraged our employees to participate in tea parties. Our events list is one we assemble based on publicly available information about town halls sponsored by members of Congress. We do not use lists from third-party organizations.”
But it’s clear that the mega-insurer’s United for Health Reform PAC is urging employees to get involved in the national discourse by attending town halls, writing letters to members of Congress and even volunteering to host house parties. The hotline offers specialists who will assist employees on how to get involved. When MinnPost called this morning, the specialists were busy assisting other callers.
An Aug. 12 memo posted on United for Health Reform’s site from UnitedHealth CEO Steve Hemsley to employees hints that some people may be getting carried away in their advocacy efforts. The memo’s title: “Respect and Cooperation are Key to the Free Exchange of Ideas.”
“Your response has been enthusiastic, with a great many of you choosing to actively join the dialogue,” Hemsley writes. “We are grateful for your engagement and the care and commitment it reflects.
“We encourage you to continue to lend your practical know-how and point of view to the health care reform debate, as always, in a respectful and collegial manner that elevates the discussion and that is consistent with the social values we hold as a company. Our mission is to help people live healthier lives. To do that, we know we have to listen closely to the people we serve and work together with them, coordinating our efforts to achieve an optimal outcome. We must remain mindful to bring that same spirit of service, respect and cooperation to this important public discussion.”
Dr. Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, also urges employees to get involved with this message on the PAC’s website:
“While we are all employees of UnitedHealth Group, we are also citizens in a democratic system of government and with that comes both the responsibility and the opportunity to make our voices heard. Of course, your participation is voluntary, but I hope you will join me this August by calling on Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensive health care reform.”