UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 14, 2009

HEALTH INSURANCE CON #342

Ken Johnson, Eagle Tribune, MA - Across Massachusetts, senior citizens are writing letters to newspapers demanding that their representatives in Congress protect a form of health insurance called Medicare Advantage.

At least that's what newspaper editors are supposed to think. 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.

Such campaigns are referred to in the news industry as "Astroturf" - that is, phony grass roots.

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