Astroturf Health Insurance Lobbying Group Paying Social Gamers To Oppose Health Reform

from the wow dept

We've seen plenty of stories of "astroturf" campaigns by lobbyists looking to influence public policy by pretending that there's grassroots support for some corporate position. And, we've seen stories of virtual goods scams taking place on various social networks, which are used to get unsophisticated social gamers to sign up for subscriptions to things that they don't want. But what happens when you combine the two?

Nicholas Carlson has an astounding story about a health insurance astroturf group that is using those social gaming "offer" services to get gamers to contact their elected officials to oppose health care reform in exchange for virtual currency in games. Yes, health insurance companies are basically trying to bribe a bunch of Farmville and Mafia Wars players on Facebook to send messages to their representatives, that say: "I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have." In exchange, you get some virtual currency to spend.

The group behind this virtual bribery astroturfing effort is backed by a who's who of insurance trade associations... and when Carlson tried to contact them for comment, the email bounced. Nice to see that some of the scammiest lobbying groups out there have found some of the scammiest marketing techniques out there as well.


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  •  
    identicon
    DH's love child, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Cue AC's "moral panic" rant in

    5.....4......3......2.....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Lobbying, spamming, what's the difference?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Healthcare reform in America will pass. More people will be covered and the overall health of Americans will get better. Those are facts.

    Another fact is that in 10 years, our healthcare system will look nothing like what is being debated today.

    The fact is that in America, we don't have enough doctors to treat the people that are in the system right now, when you throw another 40-80 million people in that system, guess what, you will be waiting even longer. More coverage (at no cost) won't lead to less utilization.

    The insurance companies are just running for their lives. Doctors are running for their lives, because they know that soon, the game is over.

    Sure, everyone should be covered, but ask any doctor today how they feel about reform. Older ones will tell you that they are glad they are not in college today and if they were, they wouldn't become doctors.

    The bumper sticker idea? Don't get sick in the next 10-15 years, after that, get ready to deal with a doctor that is a government employee.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:09am

      Re:

      how about this fact, Government hasnt ran 1 thing correctly yet, and after 10 years of your "Government Healthcare" we'll be Broke (oh wait they are working on that now, too)

      so get off your high horse and GET A JOB

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:19am

        Re: Re:

        Funny, I thought the military was run pretty well.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Funny, I thought the military was run pretty well."

          BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

           

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          Michael, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:58am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The US military? Perhaps I missed something they did right recently.

          The troops - give them a big hand. Most are great, do their best, and care about their job. The running of the military? Our military runs like a Swiss...car.

           

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            kirillian (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Agreed...the military is not so bad...the problem is that Bad Leadership creates bad performance from the followers...when Congress and the President and the rest of the Brass can't get their own crap straight, how the heck are we supposed to count on our troops?!?!

             

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              kirillian (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I should qualify my statement...personally, I'm really proud of our troops...It takes guts to do your job knowing that the United States citizens back home are not going to be supportive of what you are doing.

               

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        Brian (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:23am

        Re: Re:

        I always enjoy seeing those people who shout that get a job line. Did it ever occur to you thick headed morons that maybe most of these people HAVE jobs but they cant AFFORD to spend money on doctor visits when they are STRUGGLING to put food on the table and gas in their car? The problem with you idiots who shout "get a job" probably make half way decent money, well here is a fun fact for you NOT EVERYBODY CAN SAY THAT!!!

         

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          Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          OK! Drop your cable service and cellphone contract. That is roughly $180 monthly toward a decent health care policy for a family. Face it! People's priorities are not for health insurance coverage if they would rather spend money on non-essential items. The American dream is to have it all whether or not you can afford it. Sad...

           

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          AJ (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          yeah, but they somehow can afford three packs of cigs a day, two 40's, video games, cable TV, going to the movies and a car. Their own personal health care is at the BOTTOM of their spending priority list because it's not as important to those as health coverage.

           

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        AC, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:28am

        Re: Re:

        I do have a job. I am self employed. I pay astronomical insurance premiums. And heaven forbid if I actually need my insurance, then they can drop me if they feel like it.

        So, pull your fat-head out of your behind and get a clue.

         

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          AJ (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So why do you want to take money from me at the point of a gun so you can give it to someone else? What makes that right? And don't kid yourself, there is NOTHING voluntary about our taxes. IRS agents all have carry permits and are legally permitted to carry. They will lock you under the jail if you don't voluntarily give them your money. Why don't you get your fat-hands out of MY wallet???

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 8:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:taxes

            if it weren't for taxes there wouldn't *be* an internet, and a hell of a lot of other things too

             

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        a person, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 8:06am

        Re: Re: broke

        you are already broke, the only reason you dollar is worth *anything* is because other countries are buying your (friggin staggering) debt

         

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      DS, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:11am

      Re:

      Wow, facts from the future. Exciting.

       

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      Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      Healthcare reform in America will pass.

      I think you're missing the point. The issue is not the goal of the lobbying organization, but the method of the lobbying. They could be lobbying to give free puppies to disabled orphans of war veterans and lobbying scheme would still be wrong.

       

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      reaperman0, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      I have asked docs and they were all for the idea.

       

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      reaperman0, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      I have asked docs and they were all for the idea.

       

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      Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:59am

      Re:

      "Healthcare reform in America will pass. More people will be covered and the overall health of Americans will get better. Those are facts."

      I don't think you understand what the word "facts" means.

      Government bureaucracy increases costs and overhead while lowering the bar for quality of service through reduced competition. That's a "fact", too.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 8:46pm

      Re:

      "Healthcare reform in America will pass. More people will be covered and the overall health of Americans will get better. Those are facts."

      Yes, because more government bureaucracy over our health is great for our health.

      The government can't even manage their own budget yet alone my health.

       

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    Lobo Santo's Ugly Dog, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Is this any different from Sarah Palin wandering around screeching about "death panels" or Ruch Limbaugh getting his dittoheads to shake their heads in unison?

    For me, it just looks like the lobbyists from one side hit a great idea before the other side did, and the other side is upset. I can guess which side of the fence you are on, socialist Mike!

     

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      socialist Mike, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      I actually oppose health care reform as it stands because it leaves some room for people to make money.

      Health care should be run at a loss!
      It should be paid for by tax dollars!
      Illegal immigrants should be given priority over white people!
      Free copies of the Qur'an and cash back with every abortion!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re:illegal immigrents

        really? you actually think that the government is going to give illegal immigrants healthcare?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:54am

    Mutually exclusive

    This story assumes that being opposed to healthcare reform and responding to the "virtual currency" offer are mutually exclusive. If the Farmville and Mafia Wars players genuinely oppose the legislation and the offer gets them to get off their social gaming site long enough to speak out, good for them! If they don't oppose it, they should pass on the offer. As long as the offer is clear (unlike the scams previously discussed), fair (opposing sides can make similar offers), and honest (the person taking the offer agrees with the view point)... what's the difference? Its like giving out bumper stickers and t-shirts at a sit in or something.

     

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      Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:15am

      Re: Mutually exclusive

      If the Farmville and Mafia Wars players genuinely oppose the legislation and the offer gets them to get off their social gaming site long enough to speak out, good for them! If they don't oppose it, they should pass on the offer.

      You can't be serious. Using your logic, bribing a politician would be OK as long as he was going to vote that way anyway. A bribe is a bribe. Do you honestly think that the people who developed this scheme intend for people who oppose health care reform to "pass on the offer"? Please.

       

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        Rob, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:31am

        Re: Re: Mutually exclusive

        How is offering someone virtual currency different than paying protesters like SEIU and other left leaning organizations have done for years? Only difference I see is that in this case it's not real money being doled out.

         

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          Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:11am

          Re: Re: Re: Mutually exclusive

          How is offering someone virtual currency different than paying protesters like SEIU and other left leaning organizations have done for years?

          It's not different. They're both astroturf. I don't think I implied otherwise. Is applying a definition, like "astroturf", to all cases which meet the criteria, regardless of whether it's "left" or "right" so rare that you have to jump to this conclusion?

           

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        Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:28am

        Re: Re: Mutually exclusive

        Politicians take an oath with their jobs, and with that is an understanding that they are working for their constituents. Taking bribes undermines this trust because they are working in someone's interest other than their constituents.

        As a voter, I took no oath to not e-mail my representatives without being coerced. There is no promise, no oath, no vow. An e-mail to a representative is not a vote.

        So, really, what you said made no sense as politicians taking bribes for their vote is fundamentally different than someone e-mailing their representative (which has no weight or power over anything, it's an opinion ... a politician voting on a law is so vastly different from an opinion that it shouldn't have to be said) for promise of fake money.

        A bribe is a bribe, just like a rock is a rock ... but I can drop a pebble-sized rock and a mountain-sized rock on your foot, and you'll admit there is a huge difference between rocks.

         

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:05am

    I don't have a dog...

    (Just to play devil's advocate)

    Is it possible there's something good in this? Taking indifferent youth and thru modern media involving them somewhat in the processes which form our modern oligarchy?

    Admittedly, if there's any full disclosure it's likely horribly mis-stated with a favorable bent towards the interested parties... but still, what if...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:15am

      Re: I don't have a dog...

      There is probably plenty of good, but Mike is doing the moral outrage thing because he doesn't agree with their point of view. The post is packed full of derogatory terms, just as "astroturfing", "scams", etc.

      It isn't hard to figure out that Mike must be a very big supporter of the government's plan.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:20am

        Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

        Umm, yes, how dare he use a word like astroturfing to describe astroturfing!

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

          If he was on the other side of the issue, this would be a "smart use of new technology to reach people who need the information". It is almost comical to read the comments in this post.

           

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        Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:29am

        Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

        There is probably plenty of good, but Mike is doing the moral outrage thing because he doesn't agree with their point of view.

        And you know this how?

        The post is packed full of derogatory terms, just as "astroturfing", "scams", etc.

        And your point is? You might as well have said the post is full of verbs and nouns.

        It isn't hard to figure out that Mike must be a very big supporter of the government's plan.

        Not hard if you have a loose grasp on reality and jump to conclusions based on little to no evidence.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:45am

          Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

          Hulser, if Mike approved of what they were doing, the story would be:

          Clever Support Group Uses Social Gaming to Engage Youth

          They would be astroturfing, they would be "setting the record straight". It wouldn't be a scam, but an "effective marketing tool for reaching the youth of today". It's classic Mike "smart - dumb", nothing more and nothing less.

          It isn't hard to see what side of things Mike lands on.

           

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            Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

            Hulser, if Mike approved of what they were doing, the story would be:
            Clever Support Group Uses Social Gaming to Engage Youth


            You've simply restated your assertion without providing any evidence. So, this is two posts you've made where you accuse Mike of some political slant where none is obvious from the post. I'm sure Mike has an opinion on health care reform and since he's not a journalist he's under no obligation to hide this opinion, but what is being lobbied is all but irrelevant to the point of the post which is the problematic nature of the lobbying.

            Astroturfing is wrong. Astroturfing is being combined with games on social networking sites. Mike posted a comment about how this is wrong. You state that he wouldn't think it was wrong if the topic of the astroturfing were different. I repeat...and you know this how?

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

              Hulser, the slant is obvious from here. You are choosing not to see it, that is your right. Enjoy it.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:43am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

                And you are "choosing" to see it, which is why we always choose to ignore you.

                 

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                Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:16am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

                Hulser, the slant is obvious from here.
                So, for the third time, you've refused to actually support your assertion. If it's so obvious, then it should be a simple matter to explain your reasoning. The fact that you won't explain your reasoning, even after repeated requests and responses, would logically indicate that you in fact don't have any justification for your assertion.

                You are choosing not to see it, that is your right. Enjoy it.
                To quote Ronald Reagan, "There you go again." I see a pattern developing. First, you accuse Mike of slanting the article to match his political leanings without providing any evidence other than "it's obvious". Then, when someone questions your unsupported assertions, your reply is that I must be blinding myself to the obvious. Well, I'd rather be blind than see things that aren't there.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:26am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

                  Please? Support my assertion? I have already done that, and you choose to ignore it. Take you hands off you ears and stop yelling "lalalalalalala" for a minute, and maybe you might hear something.

                  The only thing I see here is your massive denial of what is obvious: slanted language that shows his leanings.

                   

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                    kirillian (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:46am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

                    For crying out loud...seriously...Hulser is right...you have NOT made any sort of effort to logically support your conclusions other than re-assert them repeatedly...

                     

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                    Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

                    Please? Support my assertion? I have already done that, and you choose to ignore it.

                    Repeatedly restating the same opinion does not equate to supporting an assertion. You said that Mike does not agree that the US health care system should be reformed and that because the lobbying is in favor of US healthcare reform, he characterizes the lobbying as the derogatory term "astroturfing". The only problem is that there is nothing in Mike's post that indicates his opinion on the health care reform issue or that he would hold an hypocritical viewpoint if the lobbying were pro-healthcare reform.

                    See, usually when a reasonable person wants to make an assertion, they make it and provide some supporting evidence or ideas. You, on the otherhand, are hiding behing the it's-so-obvious-I-shouldn't-have-to-explain-it technique. A technique which is, ironically, itself an obvious copout.

                     

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        Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:56am

        Re: Re: I don't have a dog...

        It isn't hard to figure out that Mike must be a very big supporter of the government's plan.

        My views on Obama's healthcare plan are somewhat meaningless, but since it has been a point of discussion here, I'll say that contrary to the assertion put forth by the AC here, I do not support Obamacare. I think it will make the system worse.

        But that has nothing to do with my feeling towards what is clearly a combination of astroturfing (not a loaded term -- widely used and accepted for many years) and bribery.

         

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    NullOp, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Why?

    And why, again, do we allow this to go on?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    I never said I supported this "government healthcare" but anyone that thinks it won't pass needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

    What part of close to 50% of the people who voted in last election paid $0 in income taxes don't you understand.

    Healthcare will pass, the healthcare of the average American will go up (because quite a few people that have no access to healthcare today will begin to receive it) and those that currently have healthcare will see their healthcare drop, but more will have access, so the averages will go up.

    Here are a few other predictions. In 20-25 years, if you want to be a doctor, you will have to be in the government plan. Allowing doctors to work outside the system will create a 2 tiered system (which we have now) and won't be allowed.

    Take a look at the UK system, because that is pretty much what ours will look like.

     

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      DH's love child, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      "What part of close to 50% of the people who voted in last election paid $0 in income taxes don't you understand"

      I believe the statistic I saw was that 46% of the POPULATION didn't pay taxes. Let's look very closely at that statistic:

      in my house (population 6) 67% don't pay taxes... of course the oldest of that 67% is 13 years old.

      Thi thing about statistics is that without the full data set, they are utterly meaningless.

      I agree that some sort of healthcare is going to pass, and I'm not so sure I like that. I miss the days of my DOCTOR making my health care decisions.. sigh

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Clearly this approach has to be classified as "innovative".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    They have no interest in improving the system as evidenced by their refusal to address the prohibition on interstate competition.
    States have run wild - in Colorado we pay more than almost anywhere else...we now all get to pay for Austic Children...Women who have had hysterectomy's must still carry pregnancy coverage...

    In the face of this and way more - I say whatever lobbying can be brought to bear is fine.

     

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    Debbie Wallace, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Government run health-care.It can be scary!!!!!!

    The same government that allows the FDA to rule generic equivelnt medicines can fall between 80% to 125% efficiecy over brand names is trying to tell me they know about health care and can waste more money on this fraud to allow a huge government to control even more stuff than they do already.Look it up if you dare too.I would not be home with recurrent seizures after 5 years of seizure control if the generics my mail-in pharmacy sent due to their policy to substitute generics for name brands when the named brands become available occurred.The generics even looked almost identical in color,size,shape,and markings.Too bad I didn't notice sooner.My neurologist told me generics frequently caused breakthrough seizures due to their 80-125% range.The script was for brand named meds but due to our FDA standards could be considered equivelent.Too bad they are not the same thing or I would still be able to drive&work instead of waiting for the therapeutic blood levels to return to normal!!!!!!!

     

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      Fred Fnord, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:56am

      Re: Government run health-care.It can be scary!!!!!!

      Unfortunately, this is actually true. However, a bit of clarification is in order.

      There are very, very few medications that are as dosage-sensitive as seizure control meds are. If you give someone 80% of their dosage of seizure control meds, they can have breakthrough effects (GENERALLY not seizures, but sometimes even real grand mals). If you give them 125% of their dosage, they will often have significant increases in side effects, sometimes to the point of being unable to function.

      On the other hand, most other medications will work just as well at an 80% dosage level as they will at 125%, which is the same as 100%. Most medications are not that dosage-dependent. If you take 80% of a migraine med, it will still work in almost all cases, and it will work just as well at 125%. Hell, 80% of many med dosages do literally exactly the same thing as 100%. (Maximal human dosage, etc.)

      I agree, there should be different FDA rules in those few cases where 80% does not equal 100%, and where dosages are very finely tuned.

      -fred

       

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        Vic B (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Government run health-care.It can be scary!!!!!!

        and since the placebo effect has shown to work as effectively as real meds in many circumstances, we should spend less time complaining about "The Government" are spend more time focusing on our disfunctions.

         

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    TDR, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:47am

    Medicine shouldn't even be a profit center to begin with. It runs counter to the inherent nature of the field, at least as it ought to be. As I've said before, I think Patch Adams had the right idea with the Gesuntdheit Hospital. I just hope it gets built so all can see how medicine can and should be.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    TDR, the sad thing is that there isn't many Patch Adams. What happens when everyone in the NE decide to go to that hospital (if it gets built?)

    That will be one long line, but you could say the same for any hospital now, even worse in the future.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Food is as important to health as medicine. Food shouldn't even be a profit center. All food production and distribution should be handled by the government. We should all just pay our taxes and get in the food line.

     

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    TDR, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:16am

    Not quite the same thing, AC. For instance, I can't get my teeth fixed even though I have dental insurance, because the procedures needed are considered cosmetic and thus, aren't really covered except for the extractions. Even with my insurance, it's still over a grand I'd have to pay out of pocket to get them fixed, and I can't use a monthly payment plan either because my credit's crap. All I want is to be able to smile again, yet I can't do it because I can't get it fixed. That's just one example of how screwed up our system is.

    You're also assuming that in a free system, people wouldn't make any appointments anymore, but that's not necessarily true. Free hospitals don't necessarily mean being just giant walk-in clinics.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    I support a public health plan. In fact, I don't know why so much time is wasted arguing with those defending our existing health care system. It's a failure and there is plenty of supporting comparative studies with the rest of the developed world to show it is a failure.
    Medicare from birth to death for all and private supplemental insurance for those who want extra services. One stone, 2 birds. Moving on...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    I had never heard the word "astroturf" until Ms. Pelosi let it roll of her lips as a way of demeaning "Tea Parties". MSNBC picked up the term and uses it quite regularly, again to demean the efforts of those who may happen to disagree with various policies of the current administration.

    Thus, whenever I see the word used my first reaction is that once again persons with a specific view on an issue are using it to try and marginalize the efforts of those who hold contrary a contrary view.

    I am not prone to gross generalizations, but by and large this is a word I have seen used by persons of "liberal" bent to mock those of "conservative" bent.

    Of course, the issue here is not one specifically directed to the ongoing health care debate. It is the use of tools enabled by the internet to garner support and political action by persons who might otherwise sit along the political sidelines and do nothing, a proclivity not at all limited to just young voters.

    A constant refrain on this site is that the younger generation is not going to "hell in a handbasket" because of the internet. It is asserted that many of the social networking and other tools engage users and improve both reading and writing skills. Assuming this is accurate, then I have a difficult time understanding why these same users are viewed by some of the commenters above are likely to be misled and encouraged to express an opinion by the dangling of a "carrot" in front of them. Surely with improved writing and reading skills these same persons are able to read the message and decide for themselves whether or not the want to participate.

    Again, this does seem to be an innovative way to get a message out and solicit support for political action.

     

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      Hulser (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:22pm

      Re:

      I am not prone to gross generalizations, but by and large this is a word I have seen used by persons of "liberal" bent to mock those of "conservative" bent.

      Astroturfing simply means a fake grass roots effort. Fair enough if you've seen this used in the context of being critical of conservative efforts, but the term itself has no left or right connotation.

      Assuming this is accurate, then I have a difficult time understanding why these same users are viewed by some of the commenters above are likely to be misled and encouraged to express an opinion by the dangling of a "carrot" in front of them.

      The problem is not encouraging people to express an opinion. The problem obviously is that people are being paid to express a specific opinion. If you think that the people who are paying this virtual money care whether or not the recipients actually hold the opinion they're supporting, then I believe you're seriously mistaken. Do you seriously not see the difference between "write your congressperson and tell them what you think about healthcare reform" and "write your congressperson and tell them you that you oppose healthcare reform and we'll pay you with virtual money"?

      Again, this does seem to be an innovative way to get a message out and solicit support for political action.
      Just because something is innovative, doesn't mean it's good. Credit default swaps were innovative, but you won't find too many outspoken supporters of them these days.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      I had never heard the word "astroturf" until Ms. Pelosi let it roll of her lips as a way of demeaning "Tea Parties". MSNBC picked up the term and uses it quite regularly, again to demean the efforts of those who may happen to disagree with various policies of the current administration.

      Really? Then you apparently do not pay much attention to what goes on in Washington DC. The term has been around for many years, and is not associated closely with either party. It is a term that is used for fake grassroots attempts to influence policy.

      The use that you suggest above is not how it is normally used.

      I am not prone to gross generalizations, but by and large this is a word I have seen used by persons of "liberal" bent to mock those of "conservative" bent.

      That is entirely incorrect. Your gross generalization is flat out wrong.

      And, since I'm pretty sure I know who you are, I have to say you are also lying when you claim you are not prone to gross generalization. At times on this site you have repeatedly grossly generalized my position, the position of others, and -- quite regularly -- "the younger generation" who you have stated, repeatedly, are an entitlement society and who have no morals.

      A constant refrain on this site is that the younger generation is not going to "hell in a handbasket" because of the internet. It is asserted that many of the social networking and other tools engage users and improve both reading and writing skills. Assuming this is accurate, then I have a difficult time understanding why these same users are viewed by some of the commenters above are likely to be misled and encouraged to express an opinion by the dangling of a "carrot" in front of them. Surely with improved writing and reading skills these same persons are able to read the message and decide for themselves whether or not the want to participate.

      Not prone to gross generalization, huh?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

        Re: Re:

        Hulser made a nice and thoughtful comment, for which I am appreciative.

        The majority of your comment, however, has nothing to do with the topic. Is it asking to much to engage in something other than a personal rant?

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 8:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hulser made a nice and thoughtful comment, for which I am appreciative.

          Indeed. I thought it was a great response.

          My comment did, in fact, have to do with the topic, though, so not sure why you suggest otherwise.

          I will admit that I did read your comment in light of your past behavior on this site, and that may have lead me to be a bit more pointed than I would have been in other cases. In my experience such a response has a higher likelihood of getting through to you, whereas more toned down responses tend to be responded to with the usual "but I'm just a simple man asking simple questions -- merely FYI" pedantry you have been known for in the past. I also found it somewhat ridiculous given your regular attempts to take us to task for speaking about things you claim we know nothing about to then make ridiculous claims about what "astroturf" meant and how it was normally used. I apologize if it was too strong, but given your own comments in the past on this site, I didn't realize that you had become more sensitive to pointed responses. I will keep it in mind for future discussions we might have.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 9:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Apology accepted and appreciated.

            As for "astroturf", I believe all I said was that the first time I ever heard the term was when Pelosi used it to denigrate "Tea Party" participants.

            Since first hearing it from Pelosi, I have seen it become the mantra of MSNBC commentators, and particularly Olbermann.

            Given my limited experience with the word (other than for artificial grass), its continuing use by "liberal" commentators was why I happened to make the "liberal/conservative" distinction.

            And, yes, I do see phony "grassroots" groups all the time, though in the vast majority of cases such groups have been local in nature and typically comprise groups like local Chambers of Commerce whenever a new construction project is proposed that will materially benefit its members at the expense of taxpayers.

            Need a new NBA arena? "Grassroots" organizations spring up everywhere touting that it will be a job creating Godsend for the local economy (though every economic study has proven otherwise).

            Need a mass transit rail system? Whoops...yet another "grassroots" movement. Of course, each and every time these movements create a website, and WHOIS identifies the same group of people who comprised the prior movements.

             

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    but but, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    places liek canad athen cant have great health care

    oh wait
    we do

     

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    John Nemesh, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 2:40pm

    Online currency=real money?

    The question I have is this: Some of these games charge real money for online funds. That being the case, if a lobbying group offers these online funds in exchange for writing your congressman, is this any different from offering cash money in the eyes of the law? If so, what would be the penalties involved for such an offense (is it even against the law?) and can the lobbyists who orchestrated this be held criminally liable?

     

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    American Patriot, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    You just lost a subscriber

    Astroturf this! Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the American people don't want to pay exorbitant rates for health insurance when that fraud in the whitehouse promised relief? I thought not.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    "Government bureaucracy increases costs and overhead while lowering the bar for quality of service through reduced competition. That's a "fact", too."

    This is true, but what does that have to do with politics.

    It is a fact that there are quite a few people who have no health insurance thus no access to healthcare. Sure, the people that currently utilize the systems healthcare will drop, the fact that millions of people will soon have access to the system will raise the average care of Americans. Increase the lines of course, but throw more people into the system, that can't be helped.

    Look at Mass when they did that.

    I know all about the Canadian system, I worked with someone that commuted from Canada to NYC every Monday and Friday. He paid into our company insurance program. I asked him why he did that and he responded "if anything serious happens to me or my family, I want to be able to get treatement in the U.S.)

    Again, if doctors are allowed to practice outside the system, then we will have a 2 tiered system which we have now, and that just won't be allowed.

    Best advise? Don't get sick.

     

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