Politics & Government

Wellpoint criticized for calling members about health care reform

WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurer, has launched what could be the start of a campaign for the hearts and minds of the American public as the country prepares for debates over reshaping its much-maligned health care system.

The company, which operates in California as Anthem Blue Cross, made 3 million computer-generated phone calls last week to gauge the public's appetite for overhauling health care – and to enlist, critics say, a grass-roots army to voice concerns about the sweeping proposals developing on Capitol Hill.

"This was our first step," said WellPoint spokeswoman Cheryl Leamon. "Obviously, the debate over health care reform is heating up."

Health care leaders in the U.S. Senate said the work on legislation will begin in early June.

California's largest insurer with 8.3 million subscribers, WellPoint is expected to take a prominent role in the debate over health care – much as it did in the state two years ago.

The company's critics say it may be taking a page out of its playbook here to counter some of the sweeping health care proposals now circulating in Washington, including a government-backed insurance plan that would compete against private insurers.

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