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WebMD's status as an Obamacare contractor merits more disclosure, lawmaker says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Shortly before enrollment began in the Obamacare exchanges, the administration's top health care official spoke glowingly of the Web site WebMD for launching an online resource to help Americans navigate the complex law. There seems to be an overly cordial relationship between WebMD and the current administration. Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley says that WebMD's status as an Obamacare contractor merits more disclosure.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Disclosure and transparency would be a good practice for any recipient of federal funding to promote the administration's health care plan," Grassley said, an influential member of the Senate Finance and Budget committees.

"Even if certain content is not produced with federal funding, but the same company takes federal government money to produce other materials, consumers would be better-informed by knowing the financial relationships," Grassley said.

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There are inordinate signs of closeness between the administration and WebMD. For example, when the Web site announced its online portal in August, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius provided a quote for the company's press release, saying the Web page would educate consumers and help "improve the quality of healthcare for millions of people across our nation."

WebMD had the occasional nice thing to say about Obamacare as well. In one article, it predicted doctors might pick up more patients and crowed in an article titled "7 Surprising Things About the Affordable Care Act" that many consumers already had received insurance refunds under the law.

Neither Sebelius nor WebMD mentioned that the company, which millions of Americans regularly read for health news, also stood to earn millions of dollars from a federal contract to teach doctors about Obamacare.

As reviewed by The Washington Times, WebMD sets to profit handsomely. The fee schedule offers dozens of products, including:

- As much as $126,826 for a single 5,000-word review article on scientific advances in a clinical topic.

- Up to $68,916 for a four-minute video from an opinion specialist.

- More than $140,000 for an eight-question online quiz.

In the meantime, WebMD says it doesn't believe it had an obligation to disclose to its broad consumer base its $4.8 million contract with the government.

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