Health plans tricking Facebook users into reform opposition

As FierceHealthcare readers know, health plans have turned to pressing their beneficiaries to lobbying against what they see as undesirable aspects of upcoming reform legislation. The pressure has come mostly in the form of direct communication between, say, Humana and their Medicare population.

Now, it seems, health plans have evolved a slick new way of building grassroots support. It appears that a bevy of health plan trade groups have enlisted an intermediary to pay Facebook users in "virtual dollars" to write letters to Congress opposing aspects of pending reform bills.

The way this scheme works, according to Silicon Alley Insider, is that a third party offers users the "currency" they use to buy objects within popular Facebook games like "FarmVille" or "MafiaWars." They get the currency if they agree to take a survey which, when filled out, automatically sends an anti-reform email message to their member of Congress.
Users are getting this virtual currency through an "offers" provider--in this case a middleman for an anti-reform group called "Get Health Reform Right." When you look closely, the publication notes, you'll see that GHRR is backed by the major health insurance trades, including America's Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association.

Get used to it, folks. Bringing "AstroTurf" political organizing to the web was inevitable. This just seems like a particularly clever way to do it. It's worth noting, though, that game company Zynga, which runs MafiaWars and FarmVille, has removed all offers from its games. But we doubt GHRR has stopped issuing the digi-cash completely. Maybe the anti-reform group is passing out Linden bucks on Second Life now?

To get more background on this controversy:
- read this Silicon Alley Insider piece

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