Did you hear about this? About two months ago, a high-ranking healthcare official piled on the praise for WebMD. Why? Because they launched an online resource to help Americans navigate the complex law.
WebMD even had some nice things to say about Obamacare. According to The Washington Times, “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.”
Wow. Are they talking about the same Federal program we’ve been hearing about? Well, yes, but there’s a catch: “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.”
READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Here are the contract documents that were reviewed by The Washington Times. The Department of Health and Human Services rewarded WebMD handsomely—in an amount of over $4 million.
Some line items worth highlighting:
• ~ $126,826 for one 5,000-word review article on scientific advances in a clinical topic
• ~ $68,916 for a four-minute video from an opinion specialist
• ~ $140,000 for an eight-question online quiz
Beyond the contract it looks like WebMD’s relationship with the administration goes deeper. According to the Times, “When the website announced its online portal in August, [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.’’
Of course, WebMD claims the contract is totally separate from the company’s news operation, which has published both positive and critical articles regarding the healthcare law.
There’s a video on The Washington Times website that accompanies the article. Overall we’re not too concerned with this development. More information is going to come to light and surely there will be pros and cons to what’s happening. We are concerned about the secrecy regarding how the funds are appropriated. This type of back room deal works against the price transparency we believe will benefit our market. However, direct care is not directly affected by this situation. In fact, we’re like a legitimate WebMD in our own right. Think about it—if a patient wants to know if they need to worry about the bite on their arm, they can text us a photo, instead of clicking around on a website that generally propagates needless concern (oh my, do I have West Nile virus?).
Personally we’re wondering when WebMD will add Hyper Attentive WebMD Disorder to their ailments, a condition emerging in Internet dwellers who can’t stop reading about various conditions they probably don’t have.