A small newspaper in Massachusetts got a call from a young man asking if the paper had printed a certain letter to the editor in support of the Medicare Advantage program, targeted for cuts by the Obama administration. The caller identified himself as Noah, a grandson of the elderly letter writer, but Noah turned out to be an intern for a public relations firm working on behalf of the Coalition for Medicare Choices, a project funded by Americas Health Insurance Plans, according to a news story in the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass.
Outliers: Is that you, Grandma? No just an insurance group
The story says the letter and three strikingly similar letters are part of a phony grass-roots campaign, or AstroTurf, orchestrated by the health insurance lobby to gin up calls on Congress to protect the program. The seniors whose names were on the letters didnt recall writing them when contacted by the newspaper.
The Dewey Square Group, a Boston-based firm that manages the effort for Massachusetts, responded to a query about the allegedly fabricated letters with a statement saying we are confident that we have acted in good faith except Noah, not so much. We apologize for the unfortunate error in judgment on the part of a college intern and we take responsibility for that management.
AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach sent a statement as well. The coalition contracts with local field organizers who work with seniors in their states and help them in reaching out and sharing their stories. Over the next few weeks, hundreds of seniors will be gathering in community meetings in states across the country to express their support for choices in Medicare.
A mention of free lunch and door prizes at the meetings disappeared from the coalitions Web site last week.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.