To the editor:
Last Thursday I spent my afternoon visiting the office of The Lewin Group, the health care policy research firm that proclaims the independence of its opinions. I visited the firms Falls Church office along with a small group of activists, the purpose being to call attention to The Lewin Groups complete ownership by United HealthCare, the nations largest health insurance company, hardly unbiased in the current health care debate.
Members of Congress from both political parties have often cited the Lewin Groups reports on health care reform legislation. Although the Lewin Group claims editorial independence, their research largely supports the anti-reform, anti-public option position of their parent company, United HealthCare. Despite this conflict of interest, members of Congress and many members of the media fail to acknowledge that The Lewin Group is wholly owned by an entity of the health insurance industry.
We arrived at The Lewin Groups offices at lunchtime. Security had been notified of our impending visit ahead of time, and when we got to the front door we found the building locked. We managed to get inside, however, and got up to the executive offices on the eighth floor. We were promptly accosted by an angry receptionist who demanded we leave immediately. He instructed a security officer to escort us out of the building. As we tried to explain to him why we were there, he called the police. (We had brought documented literature describing how its parent company had taken cruel advantage of their clients to show the companys officers.)
In fact, they were accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. In January, UnitedHealth agreed to a $50 million settlement with the New York Attorney General and a $350 million settlement with the AMA, covering unconscionable conduct going back as far as 1994.
No one in the building would allow us to speak and, in fact, everyone we encountered put their hands in front of our video camera to avoid being captured on tape. I was shocked and dismayed that employees of this company took such aggressive measures, especially since I am a non-threatening 64-year-old mother of one and grandmother of one, a university professor emeritus, and a peaceful activist for causes I believe in. I am only trying to inform the general public of the abhorrent tactics and policies of the big insurance companies and to expose their methods of misleading and cheating the insured. The response we got is indicative of the fear they have of being exposed as what they really are.
Over the next several weeks, Congress will be making critical decisions on health care reform that will affect our health care, as well as the health care of our children and grandchildren. I want my members of Congress to make an informed decision based on independent, unbiased research, not based on the pseudo-science of a firm owned by a health insurance company.
Susan G. Schorin